Friday, May 16, 2014

The Past is not Forgot

As readers of this blog know, as a composer I struggle with the idiom. I'm not comfortable with modernism (though I was, in the past), nor post-modernism. I want to create good music, but sometimes that quote from Frank Zappa echoes in my ear:
All the good music has already been written by people with wigs and stuff.
Not to be confused with that other great Zappa quote:
You can't always write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say, so sometimes you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream.
 I just ran across an artist that really gives me hope that what I am trying to do is possible. The artist is a Spanish painter named Dino Valls.
As one of the Spanish representatives of the vanguard of figurative art, Valls' work displays the strong influence of past masters and their studies of the human being. In the early '90s, Valls began studying the use of egg tempera, adapting and customizing the techniques of Italian and Flemish masters from the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries to create new works in combinations of tempera and oil. His paintings elaborate and expand upon the methods of past masters, employing formal figurative techniques as the medium through which to explore the human psyche in a conceptual framework laden with profound psychological weight and symbolism.
And here is the result:

That is what I regard as aesthetically powerful. It has depth, power, beauty. It uses the rich techniques of the past and images in a way that I have not often seen.

It makes me realize that what I have been doing lately: studying the way Joseph Haydn puts together phrases and the way Renaissance composers handled counterpoint, can actually provide me with the techniques I need.


Rickard Dahl said...

Don't worry about it. Just write what sounds good to you. I think listening to a wide variety of classical music just expands the musical creativity rather than limiting it. In fact after listening to music for many hours during a day, interesting original ideas (which include orchestration too) come to my head when I try to fall asleep. Besides, composers relied on previous composers to some degrees anyways, it's not like they isolated themselves from music other than theirs (or I guess some did, like Elliot Carter).

Bryan Townsend said...

I think the model of the isolated composer, retreating from the world to capture his own unique vision, is one that may have had its origins in the 19th century (Mahler, for one, would retreat to a cottage by a lake to compose every summer), but became more characteristic in the 20th century with figures like Elliot Carter and Conlon Nancarrow. Possibly a lot of others, but I'm not sure if anyone has researched this.