Hector Berlioz wrote Symphonie fantastique: Épisode de la vie d'un Artiste (Fantastic Symphony: An Episode in the Life of an Artist) in 1830. This program symphony, or musical narrative, became an important piece of the early Romantic period. The first movement, “Rêveries-Passions” (Reveries-Passions) describes the artist as he has just seen a lovely girl who he immediately falls madly in love with. This renders the capabilities of his creative spirit. The second movement, “Un Ball” (A Ball), the artist finds himself enjoying the splendors of love and festivities. Following with the emphasis of romantic nature, the artist has departed to seclusion away from society to rekindle his artistic flame, but all the while longing for the beloved and wonders of her loyalty this concluding the third movement, "Scène aux champs" (Scene in the Fields). After returning to society, his burning doubt of his beloved’s unfaithfulness drives him to attempt an overdose of opium, but instead he is plunged into a deep sleep, in which he kills his beloved and is executed in the fourth movement, "Marche au supplice" (March to the Scaffold). Finally in the fifth movement, "Songe d'une nuit de sabbat" (Dreams of a Witches' Sabbath), he is confronted with demons and his own self-loathing.
The work I compose consistently possesses an element of pattern, use of graphic lines, and implied lines. As an artist I am capable of highly representational renderings, but I do not want to become a camera. Using pen and ink, I find graphic stylizations to be a more effective at communicating my choice of media. I want viewers to understand and see the ink control me as I place it. In this body of work, I have juxtaposed a colorful abstract pattern of rectangular shapes representing the harmonic path of segments from each movement of Symphonie fanastique with narrative figures displayed by graphic contour line much like that of a coloring book. The narrative is rooted from Hector Berlioz’s program notes. It is important to give viewers multiple aspects of stimulating material to relate to with the goal of informing, inspiring, and edifying them.
The average viewer may not grasp the complex nature of musical compositions. I want them to absorb this simplistic depiction of harmonic form, and notice its complexity. Afterward, viewers will hopefully will be inspired to consider what dots on a staff actually mean, how many there are, and how they correlate. Mainstream music has been corporatizing for several decades. Modern listeners continue to narrow their musical palates. I want viewers to be inspired to hear where it innovated and make the connection to some of the pieces they hear now. Hollywood orchestrations, like James Horner’s theme to The Lord of the Rings, resemble the introduction into “Un Bal,” and “Dreams of a Witches' Sabbath” was featured by Jerry Goldsmith in the 1991 film Sleeping with the Enemy. Exposure is the first factor of being distinguished.
In this body of work I create each piece using a systematic approach. First composing the written narrative into the contour line figure drawing; then layering the colored shapes on top intermingling the two as I color. I choose pen and ink because it is what I am most practiced in, therefore, being the most comfortable media for me. I enjoy the control I have over the pen, and the intricate lines it can create. In the layer of color, visually illustrating the audible Symphonie fantastique by using synesthesic color associations to display a format that allows the viewer to see sound durations and pitch moving from left to right. Synesthesia is a neurological condition in which individual’s cognitive pathways intertwine causing involuntary reactions to certain stimuli. Associating color and pitch is not a new concept. Expressionistic painters Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky both attempted to visually depict sound. Media player software graphics depict musical elements such as pitch, dynamics, etc. through the use of motion and color. Another way of depiction, my work translates harmonic notations through the pattering of colored spaced similar to a visual midi or Klee’s Ancient Harmonies.
I consistently compose my concept with employment of pattern and graphic contour line, giving the viewers multiple aspects of stimulation to inform, inspire, and edify. I create each piece using a systematic approach that visually illustrates the audible music of Symphonie fantastique through synesthesia color associations. The format allows the viewer to see sound durations and pitch moving from left to right. Viewers should take home a more developed perspective on the depth and intricacies of all arts.
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© 2012 Charles Ethan Abercrombie, All Rights Reserved
82 College Circle, Dahlonega, Ga 30533
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18 July 2022
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Art marker on Paper