Archive for the 'Music' Category


Oct 06, 2009 in Abstract Art, Music

Drawing parallels and differences with/between painting and music helps to understand both. The reader will excuse me from drawing from, and referring to, my own experience, because that’s the only source of originality a webmaster has to offer.
Picasso fought a lifelong battle against lovelyness in his art. Partly that’s due to the time in which he was formed as an artist. During the course of the 19th century beauty in art as a goal in itself had become the target of art philosophers and a whole generation of artists had to disavow a style of painting with which they were brought up. That’s why, for instance, Munch’s famous painting The Scream looks so pale (it looks ok on photos in which the saturation of the colors has been enhanced), because he would delibaretely expose his paintings to direct sunlight, so that the colors would lose their permanence. He would refer to his paintings as his children and by treating them rough they would learn to fend for themselves, as he put it, by which he meant that they had to be judged on the basis of their intrinsic artistic quality, not on manneristic properties. Likewise he would take his paintings outside during the winter, exposing them to rain and snow, leading to open-air exhibitions in his garden which must have seemed surreal. At one time his dog ran through one of his paintings.
While signing lithographs Picasso would hold his pen in such an unatural way that the effort it took him to sign, gave his authograph more character, thus avoiding facility, even in his signature. Facility was exactly what Picasso and his peers were trying to avoid, but in Picasso’s case there was probably another factor.
At 15 years old Picasso was already an accomplished figurative painter, working at a professional level, so as a beginning artist he was motivated by the emotions of a child and children are usually not concerned with artistic depth. They just want to make art that is good and fun and perhaps beautiful. You evolve as you grow up, but also, to an extent, elaborate on what you did as a child. There are certain childhood habits you can’t kick and in Picasso’s case lovelyness in art was probably one such habit.
Van Gogh was an adult when he started to paint at 27 years old and had gone through his “moulting period”, as he called it, in which he became dissillusioned with the established values of the world of his father. Needless to say Van Gogh never had any problems with “lovelyness”.
Mozart was a genius composer, but it seems to me that throughout his life he kept doing what he was supposed to do as a Wunderkind: entertain people. During the past decades the center of gravity in the world of music has shifted from Mozart (whose name had always been synonymous with music) to composers like Bach, whose music has more artistic depth.
So I conclude that technically it pays to start learning art at a young age, but artistically you develop childish habits that you never quite get rid of.

I came to this conclusion be analyzing my own development, so those that are interested in famous artists only, will be excused from here on.

As a teenager I was a hopeless romantic and for me music was an exercise in sentimentality. Today I battle against sweet melodies in a way similar to Picasso fighting lovely pictures. In painting I have no such problem, in line with the above-mentioned line of thought, because I started to paint at 26. As a painter I will happily be an aesthetic, but in music I’m a candy machine, although there are ways to emphasize the expressive aspect.

>>> music blog


Aug 04, 2009 in Music

Please take a listen to a recording I made, it’s called Composition One. Not a very imaginitive title, it also took me a long time before I was able to come up with decent titles for paintings.
If the link above doesn’t work, try this (click on musical note on the left).
Or else try this and click on the blue download now link (rather slow download).

I wrote this track, played the guitar and used my laptop and some music production software to record it.

The track is 2:56 min long, its file size weighs in at 4 MB.

I have registered the recording for copyright, so you may not burn it to CD, or otherwise multiply it, but please feel free to add it to your iPod or MP3 player.

From here on all my posts on music will be added to my new music blog at

Abstract Portrait No. 8

Jun 16, 2009 in Abstract Art, Music, New Paintings

Abstract Portrait No. 8

Abstract Portrait No. 8

This painting was made in 1999 (I think). Its main purpose was to test a new acrylics color I had bought: quinacridone gold, which is the brown color you see in the image. I figured it would work similarly to the burnt sienna acrylics I used in my Egyptian paintings, but it didn’t, maybe because burnt sienna is more transparent. Burnt sienna acrylics mix very well with titanium white, which permits subtle modelling and lead to the manneristic style of my Egyptian paintings.

I have visited no less than six museums during the past months and learned many things, but right now I’m deeply immersed in amateur music production, so all my other activities suffer (still painting, though).

A week ago I bought a Fender Stratocaster, the first decent electric guitar I’ve ever owned. “Decent” is an understatement, because it’s an instrument of pure quality. Years ago I gave up making music out of frustration over my inability to fulfill my artistic dreams by means of the musical medium. I wanted to do everything at the same time: create popular music that was simple and compact and at the same time contain complex harmony and atonality. I consistenly rejected my music teacher’s assertion that popular music consists of the tonic, subdominant and dominant chords, but at the same time I was unable to find a music teacher that would give me a proper grounding in music theory.

Anyway, I’ve always loved playing the guitar. For a painter I’m a pretty normal guy, but as an adolescent I had a physical relationship with my acoustic guitar. I would actually pet it .
To me a guitar is a living person, like a child that needs care and understanding. I like to visit music shops and “meet” its guitars, by running my finger across their strings to check their sound. Some guitars are lovable, others are unfortunate, as in underprivileged, as there are no bad guitars, just bad makers.

Wagner I I

Nov 09, 2008 in Music

Again, because this is a blog, I don’t hesitate to publish my thoughts, whether or not they pertain to this site’s theme, abstract art. In the broader sense, this site is about art in general, so let’s elaborate on Wagner a little more.

A  while ago I bought two CD-boxes online, both from Wagner. I got the Ring des Nibelungen (14 CDs!) that is most recommended by Amazon users. I won’t mention the name of the conductor here, because he did such a lousy job, I can’t listen to it and removed the Ring from my MP3 player.

I also got Tristan and Isolde, conducted by Karl Böhm, which I can wholeheartedly recommend. Remarkably, while this recording dates back to 1966, engineers have been able to revamp it, using original image bit processing, or something, such that the result is of truly high, digital quality.

More importantly, the recording (3 CDs) features Birgit Nillson, who had such a thorough and intuitive understanding of Wagner’s music that, without her, for me at least, Wagner’s music wouldn’t be the same.

To me, Wagner’s music is a bigger enigma than Bach’s counterpoint. Bach was able to put so much energy and expression into just a couple of bars of music, an approach which is best suited to relatively short pieces of music, like cantatas and chorals. Longer pieces of music require a different approach in that the composer must mind the piece’s overall architecture, which is probably not just a matter of elaborating on a theme, but the overall form of the piece must be taken as a musical goal within itself. Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion has lots of great music but has the same ailment as most operas: emotional highs are alternated with passages that sound flat and deflated.

So, one of the stunning properties of Tristan and Isolde (abbr. T&I) is its perfect overall design, which made me listen to music in a way I had never done before. While most music is all about “the now”, T&I is just as much about the composition’s past and future.

Also very interesting is the way Wagner uses pre-existing musical clichés, which every composer does, but Wagner gives every reference to past music a different twist, in a uniquely Wagnerian way. In some parts of T&I this sounds like the hare outmaneuvering the fox, with the music constantly being one or two bars ahead of itself.

The parallel with the visual arts is that a painting shouldn’t be too transparent either. As a painter I try to layer ideas in such a way that it confuses the eye in a controlled way, such that it captivates the viewer.

Back to Wagner, Tristan and Isolde is so fundamentally different from any composition by any artist, that in me it reinforces the idea that doing things differently is inherent to great art.

Also, once again I pay tribute to Birgit Nillson. After all, there are a million ways to f**k up a great composition and I’ve seldomly listened to any singer or instrumentalist that had such an understanding of such complicated music as Wagner’s.

For those that want to get taste of Wagner I have inserted a clip from Tristan and Isolde which is 33 seconds long and 5.4 MB big (click here to download .wav file, takes a few minutes). I have chosen this piece because it’s so typical of Wagner: highly dramatic and yet technically disciplined. It’s the ending of the second part of Tristan and Isolde. Endings are tricky, because if there’s something not quite right with the composition, the composer will find it difficult to create a suitable ending. Take Beethoven. Technically brilliant as he was, he often had to beat his symphony to death, dealing one blow after another, like an inexperienced hunter trying to kill a creature that refuses to give up the ghost. Now listen to the clip above and see how Wagner kills both Tristan and Isolde in one swift blow (don’t try this at home).


Jul 30, 2008 in Music

Because this is a blog, I think I can afford more ramblings of a semi-private nature than on the rest of my site. So this post will be about music, which is important to me in the way I experience and think about art.

I started to listen to classical music in the 1990s, disenchanted as I was with the way pop culture was developing. I started with Bach, moved on to Mahler and last week I “discovered” Richard Wagner. I’m so impressed by the latter, that I feel it necessary to testify of my admiration. This is not original, Wagner is very renowned and what led me to downloading Wagner’s “Siegfried” is that Mahler regarded Wagner as his only contemporary that he could appreciate without reservations.

Listening to “Siegfried” I immediately noticed how technically advanced this opera is. Wagner is the only composer of operas I know that can capture the listener’s attention on a continuous basis. He never builts superlative upon superlative, as Mahler does have a knack of. He’s never too bombastic (Beethoven), or too dramatic (Bach). Wagner’s music is deeply embedded in 19th century romanticism, but he uses romantic style means so selectively, that he’s never mushy.

Listening to Wagner, I realize that my idol Mahler is not as authentic as I thought, because Wagner IS authentic. In Mahler’s symphonies certain parts sound like “glued together”, rather than the symphony as a whole having been conceived of entirely spontaneously. In “Siegfried” I can discern no “welding”.

Finally, Wagner was a man who used no more artistic means than absolutely necessary for coming to a complete result.

Wagner is often linked with anti-semitism, which should be put into perspective, in my opinion. From what I have read, Wagner was critical of Jewish culture, but didn’t seem to be racially biased against Jews, with whom he worked, befriended and was supported by.

Wagner’s stance is very similar to the way Islam is criticised today and although I’m a multiculturalist, most people I know are not. I know the’re not racist, but, in my humble opinion, somewhat culturally unsophisticated, so I don’t feel the need to demonize them. Unless, of course, you’re politically correct and you feel that a political opnion that opposes your own is necessarily morally depraved.

The great Gustav Mahler proved Wagner wrong in his thinking that all Jewish composers produced shallow work.

However, some politically correct folks object to Mahler for his somewhat despotic attitude towards his women. Similarly, one could mention the mysogynistic Picasso, Modiglinani “the sexist”, etc….It doesn’t look like art and political correctness go together well, also considering the attempts in Nazi Germany and the Sovyet Union to come to politically correct arts, which didn’t produce anything that is considered to be of value today.