Monday, April 10, 2006


Yesterday afternoon, I enjoyed a concert with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the second in a series of three special concerts they are doing in conjunction with the wonderful Baltimore Museum of Art. This series revolves around making the distinct connection between music and art in very specific periods and times. How appropriate this concert should come a week after my musical digressions about Mahler and others, last week! Yesterday's concert centered on the works of Monet and several others of the Impressionist painters and their airy and ethereal take on the way that natural light and atmosphere play against objects. The first of the series back in January focused on Picasso and the music of De Falla, Stravinsky and the glorious Joaquin Rodrigo Concierto de Aranjuez featuring the masterful playing of Manuel Barrueco. Debussy and Ravel featured strongly in yesterday's programming and their works complimented totally the paintings of Monet and Cezanne.

The Debussy work, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, played first on the program, was a fitting, tranquil and softly soothing connector to the art works of Monet with gentle tonalities floating through the air, corresponding to the light wisps of paint projected on a screen above the orchestra. It truly was, for those who had never thought about such connections before, an eye opening experience, I have no doubt. It was just one more way of reinforcing all that I have felt about music and art and the connection that occurs, for me at any rate, between the two.

In remarks written in the orchestra's program guide for the first program in the series back in January, Jeremy Rothman, the orchestra's Artistic Administrator noted that music can be 'a vehicle for exploring other disciplines, such as art, science, history and societal issues.' I could not agree more. Back when I was teaching, it was exciting for me to join with our music teacher in formulating structured lessons that combined art, music, the written word and other aspects of educational knowledge, so our students could see the connections and perhaps, accept basic understanding and learning without knowing they were doing it! It was apparent that the students were excited about it all as well. It is very unfortunate that in so many cases and so many school districts strapped for funding and supplies and knowledgeable teachers, that the 'Arts' have suffered, languished and been tossed aside as being groundless for a good education. It is no wonder that many of our cultural institutions now suffer also, from the lack of community support, to the fact that many younger people have no concept of the need to have the arts included in their lives.

Listening to the music yesterday, gave me an opportunity to think on the drive back home, just how important it is to touch and feel and see and hear and smell and experience things on a first hand, face to face, personal basis. Seeing a reproduction of one of these magnificent Monet works in a book, no matter how good the color capture, is just not the same as standing before it in person, in a museum or gallery and being able to allow yourself to move into it, get lost in it, feel it .... experience the smallest detail, the nuances of color contrast and brush work that in the case of Impressionist works is so important. I feel you just can not go through life claiming to know and feel by simply looking at pictures in a magazine or book and to never really know the thrill of seeing something 'in the flesh.'

Though I have that huge library of music on disc that I mentioned last week, at my daily disposal while at work in the studio, to be able to go to a live concert, as I did yesterday and will do again next month for the last of the three concerts in this discussed series (Matisse and his cohorts), is an experience that can not be matched. To stand behind an artist, painting out in the field or on a sidewalk, and see how their fingers move the brush, dab the paint, make the connection between what they see and what they are painting, the way they edit and adjust and modify and capture and create on the spot, to my mind anyway, makes the enjoyment of the finished work that much more special. To go to a museum and spend an hour or an afternoon, looking and exploring and experiencing first hand, can only, to my way of thinking, enhance life. We really need to be able to stop and take time to make those connections between art and music and drama and the written word that so truly reflect what is going on all around us at any given point in time. The arts, as history has shown, do mirror what is best and worst about society and I feel we all should find some way, if even the smallest of ways, to avail ourselves and take advantage of the surprising inspirations and untrod paths that exposure to the arts can bring us.

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