Reply To: Multimodal art

  • 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!