17 September 2009

Art and grammar

I noticed something recently while writing music at the piano. The section I was working on contained two independent lines separated between the hands, but at one point the harmonies generated became noticeably thin and the two lines were no longer distinct. It was obvious that the problem was a few successive parallel octaves (parallel perfect intervals diminish the sense of separate voices) so I reworked the section to eliminate the error but keep the intended mood. I recognized the error because of how it sounded, and even understood how to fix it by reworking the melodies and listening, but understanding the process involved a working knowledge of the grammar of music.

The High was recently showing Monet's Waterlillies. Currently, they're showing works of Leonardo Da Vinci. For major shows, they will display a large-scale poster covering the front of their main building and facing Peachtree Street. The Monet was a section of a Waterlillies painting with an overall right-pointing triangular layout (c.f. the Classical design style that often uses the more stable hypotenuse-base triangle). The Da Vinci poster consists of a section of a terracotta relief sculpture that contains a reclining angel (clipped section below).


The figure suggests a syncopation of geometric shapes fitted elegantly and embellished with slight, Renaissance curves. You can immediately see the artist's thoughts as he blocked out the design.

Both instances show how an understanding of the grammar of the arts helps the viewer both to understand the mechanics of communication and to recognize the cause of flawed communication.

[ posted by sstrader on 17 September 2009 at 11:10:22 PM in Art , Language & Literature , Music ]