Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Music of Color

The beauty of music is that you don't always have to have words to be touched. That is, music has the ability to bypass the rational part of our selves and reach past into the heart, massaging the soul in ways that an intellectual dissection of an argument never can. I don't know why that is, but we have all known and experienced it.

I was talking yesterday with a woman who works in an Alzheimer's unit at a group home. I mentioned how these people can have the slate of their memories so completely wiped clean of every experience, yet they remember all the words to their favorite songs. The music connects, reaches in, extracts memories that have been packaged in the mind in such a different form so that they can't be erased.

Artist Wassily Kandinsky explored abstraction in art specifically because of his fascination with visual music. He very deliberately sought to find ways to express the immaterial, the spiritual, that something beyond objective, concrete forms to reach indefinable inner truths. Kandinsky's efforts to turn music into imagery were no doubt inspired in part by the fact that he was himself a musician, having played the piano and cello since childhood.

His efforts to bring music into the visual, to break apart art's historical dependence on concrete images and allow color to speak directly to our deeper selves, to make the visual into a form of music, made him a highly influential person a century ago.

Through his art as well as his writing, Kandinsky proved a liberating force in the European art scene during a time when it was undergoing its most vibrant emergence. Kandinsky's work was not a negation of form, it simply aspired to be something more.

As a young art student I failed to appreciate what he was striving to achieve through his work. In retrospect I understand better his importance in art history and that he had influenced me without my even knowing it!

It's often that way, isn't it? So much of what is happening today is because of others from generations preceding us of whom we are often unaware. Perhaps we ourselves can be influential going forward in the same unheralded manner as we strive to make this world, and our own small worlds, better places through creative living and giving.
Image is Kandinsky's Composition #8...

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