Music notation as art

Graphic music notationIn my last post I wrote about music as a subject for a painting. Now I’ll turn to music notation as art. Medieval church scribes copied out chants by hand and often decorated the pages with floral capitals, motifs and other elements. Although designed for very practical purposes, the manuscripts are visually striking works of art. In the late fourteenth century, French and Italian composers wrote love songs reflecting the chivalric culture of the age that were sometimes matched by the visual appearance of the notation: florid decoration, mixed red and black notes and clever designs. One example is the “Musical Heart” by Baude Cordier, written around 1400. Continue reading →

Music in art

Music and music-making have been subjects for artistic images throughout human history. Images of musicians are carved into millennial-old Egyptian tombs. Musical imagery was common in European art from the Renaissance onward and was typically chosen for specific symbolic purposes. In one painting on the popular Biblical theme of the Prodigal Son at the Whores’, for example (attributed to Cocke van Aelst), even the sheet music was chosen for its words, “What shall we gamble with the money bag; our gold is gone.”* The Last Supper(The widespread use of symbolic iconography during the Renaissance suggests that it is not farfetched, as a computer technician recently claimed, that Da Vinci’s famous fresco “The Last Supper” has musical notes encoded in the painting (see BBC news story). Each piece of bread supposedly represents a note on a staff that translates into a 40-second musical composition. The idea is intriguing, but I would give it more credence if the music matched a known melody from Da Vinci’s time.) Continue reading →

The making of “The Nefertiti Xperience”

This 10-minute video shows how Gemini Soul recorded “The Nefertiti Xperience” (CD scheduled for release Feb. 25, 2008). There is a nice example toward the end of CD using the song “Vertigo” in which you can hear the “before” and “after” versions: first, Andre plays his “mock up” version to give us his ideas for the song, then you hear the fully realized recorded version that we improvised. Continue reading →

What makes American music great?

African Americans, creating a musical language out of their collective experiences of slavery and oppression, are the source that raised American music to greatness in the 20th century. As each new style emerged into the larger culture, it was initially denigrated and criticized, much like society denigrated the black men and women it had forcibly brought into its midst. The loudest critics were not always whites, though. Churchgoing blacks once upheld a dichotomy between gospel (God’s music) and the blues (the devil’s music). Continue reading →