Parallel project #3

Asking google whether a painting could also be music led me to this Guardian article by Gerard McBurney from 2006. In it he describes Kandinsky’s view that colours resonated with each other to produce visual chords.

He wasn’t alone and he wasn’t the first. The Pythagoreans had a view, “The eyes are made for astronomy, the ears for harmony, and these are sister sciences.“, and the much later Romantics, “Goethe declared that architecture was “frozen music”, and the mid-Victorian über-aesthete Walter Pater breathlessly announced that “all art aspires towards the condition of music“.

Kandinsky evidently hit his stride during an era of boundary blurring in the late 18th and early 19th century, often describing his works as, “Compositions, Improvisations, and Impressions.”

Synaesthesia gets a mention, as it should. This is a neurological condition whereby sensory routes to the brain become mixed so that, for instance, words or sounds become colours, although this doesn’t seem to be a factor in Kandinsky’s work. In fact the way he seems to have experienced that influence sounds rather like a controlled LSD trip whereby he was an active participant, unlike actual trippers who are generally passive gawpers at convoluted clouds and frilly multicoloured waves on the shoreline. Don’t ask me how I know. Brighton, art school, 1960s, ok? Hendrix featured a lot.

That is really it for anything close to paintings being music. For most people, music is the influence, not the product in pictorial form. I think this will need a more intellectual approach; conceptualisation of a musical genre or piece and translation into a visual form that isn’t musical notation.

McBurney, G. 2006. Wassily Kandinsky; the painter of sound and vision. The Guardian. Wassily Kandinsky: the painter of sound and vision | Art | The Guardian.

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