Multimodal art

  • Posted by Mike Todd on July 3, 2023 at 7:29 am

    What are your thoughts on multimodal art, such as video art, as a vehicle for enhancing what might be loosely-termed “right hemisphere appreciation”? I’m no art connoisseur, but here are a few of my own thoughts with respect to two of my favourite pieces of music: the first, in which there is (to my mind) an ostensible thematic congruence between music and imagery; the second, in which there isn’t – at least, not once it gets underway.

    In terms of whether the juxtaposition of modes enhances or diminishes the overall experience – multiplies or divides the modes? – I find the first video a damp squib, perhaps not least because Burns’ paintings show no great variation. By contrast, I find the second video wonderful: the music enriches Clausen’s art in a way I feel unqualified to articulate. (I wonder, however, about the tantalising prospect that the ostensible thematic disparity between music and imagery in the second video creates a kind of tension, as of Heraclitus’ lyre and bow.)

    Mike Todd replied 11 months, 4 weeks ago 2 Members · 3 Replies
  • 3 Replies
  • Allan Macdougall

    July 3, 2023 at 12:30 pm

    This is such an interesting subject Mike. I’ve often thought about what it is about certain passages of music that so powerfully evokes particular landscape character and location (and vice versa – that landscapes can evoke particular passages of music). Many of Vaughan Williams’ compositions are so quintessentially rural English, similar to a deep immersion into one of Thomas Hardy’s novels, for example ‘The Woodlanders’.

    I think it has much to do with a kind of ‘longing’ for an idyll nestling in the unconscious mind somewhere, that such juxtapositions are able to stimulate. As an artist myself, I would have difficulty in producing a painting without having music playing, appropriate (at least to my mind) to the landscape I am attempting to depict; the hope being that others who view it would also experience similar collocation.

    I think if an artist paints a scene that is too representative and prescriptive, with obvious tightly-rendered motifs, the juxtaposing value of music and image diminishes, because it leaves little for the viewer’s imagination to ‘fill in the gaps’. I think Burns’ paintings fall into that category.

    To my mind Clausen’s paintings have the right amount of abstraction to stimulate (and thus have respect for) the viewer’s imagination in the direction of what is appropriate to them, perhaps derived from past experiences. What is hinted at through visual metaphor, is far more powerful than that which is made too obvious. For my own taste, I think ‘Norfolk Rhapsody’ would be better suited to Clausen’s paintings than ‘Dives and Lazarus’.

    Unfortunately associations can also be destructive. For example, when a beautiful piece of music is effectively ruined by an advertising campaign. The one that immediately springs to mind is Delibes’ ‘Flower Duet’, used by British Airways a while ago. The association worked well on a corporate level, but it was utterly ruinous to the classically beautiful piece of music. I guess the former right hemisphere appreciation was inappropriately jolted into the utilitarian left after that campaign!

    • Mike Todd

      July 3, 2023 at 4:21 pm

      Thanks so much, Allan. It’s clear to me that, being an artist, you have far greater facility comprehending and describing art than I do. Your nods to longing, collocation and visual metaphor have, as it were, set the wheels of my mind in motion, and I’m off now to gather quotes from Dr. McGilchrist and others with which to frame a nascent intuition. Back in a bit.

    • Mike Todd

      July 25, 2023 at 1:22 pm

      Hi Allan,

      I’ve been meaning to say, I haven’t forgotten about this thread. Small, salient insights occur to me most days, but I have other priorities at present.

      I’m slowly drawing together the threads of several related existents, such as “longing”, as Dr. McGilchrist describes it, the universality of music, the nature of visual art, in particular its translucence, and, of course, the ubiquity of symbol and metaphor.

      Perhaps somewhere in the composure of autumn I’ll have an opportunity to compose.

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