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Behind the Scenes of “Art Amplified”

August 12, 2015 | By Rachel Zink

It was fun to think BIG for our 2014 recycled cardboard exhibit, Outside the Box, at SECCA. So when our academic year intern, Katharyn Valier, began to think even bigger for this year’s show—proposing the idea to combine visual art and music, the two artistic focuses of our Winston-Salem chapter—we didn’t hesitate; the gears in our heads started moving and Art Amplified (which opens this week) is the grand, harmonious result!

Here, Katharyn shares more about her ideas for the show, and we hear from three musicians about their process of putting art to song!

Show Statement, Katharyn Valier

Over the past year, I have worked on this art/music synthesis project while completing a volunteer internship with Arts For Life. The idea for this project started with an assignment given to me from a composition teacher. For my senior year in college, I had the opportunity to write a “graphic score” with shapes and other visual symbols that represented my own musical ideas. As both an art and music student, this project really got me thinking and allowed me to combine the two things that I am passionate about into one creation. My graphic score was then interpreted by an ensemble of musicians. This experience was so unique, rewarding, and so much fun for me that I felt compelled to create nine more scores. Sharing this experience with the kids at Brenner has really been a dream come true.

Every participant (kids and musicians) in this show had a very different interpretation of this project. While creating the scores, the young artists were given a brief overview of general music terms and their corresponding meaning (rhythm, melody, harmony, etc.). Many of them kazooed, whistled, or hummed melody lines that they then conveyed symbolically in their scores. Some tapped on the tables or on finger bongos before painting their rhythms. Each participant was also asked to think about the mood, narrative, and structure behind their piece. All of the scores were created using acrylic paint, scrapers, toothbrushes, rubber stamps, and bingo dots!

After hearing about the kids’ scores, many local composers and songwriters volunteered to write a piece of music to a child’s musical score painting. The musicians involved selected a piece of art that they were immediately drawn to. Information about the artwork and artists was communicated to the corresponding musicians, and everyone began writing music. The pieces of music were then recorded by the individual musicians and compiled into a slideshow presentation.

Composer Statement, Leah Shaw
music inspired by Destiny’s “To the Ocean”

Destiny "To the Ocean"Destiny evokes an ocean scene where there is bright sunshine and waves, and elements like a heart and flower that seem to float on the surface of the ocean, conveying a dreamlike tranquility that comes from being by the sea. To musically reflect this, I chose a simple combination of acoustic guitar and a wordless vocal line; the melody is one that came to mind while taking in the painting that Destiny created. The repetitive nature of the accompaniment with only slight variation mimics the constant but variable break of ocean waves. Harmonically, I chose to oscillate between a major key and its relative minor to reflect the way that while relaxing by the ocean it is safe for all thoughts, both melancholy and happy, to pass through the mind in peace.

I felt an understanding with Destiny working on this project, because we both play guitar in order to feel transported to a peaceful spot. I hope to meet and play music with her soon!

Composer Statement, Jeffrey Dean Foster
music inspired by Autumn’s “Nighttime”

Autumn "Nighttime"Seven-year-old Autumn’s painting, “Nighttime,” (pictured here) is beautiful and full of mystery and wonder. The companion piece “Sunshine” is the flipside, full of sweetness and light. When I sat down to write some music I wanted the songs to travel from daytime to nighttime and back again. “Sunshine” is 100% pure, not from concentrate, sunny pop. It’s short, sweet, and passes quickly. “Nighttime” is the sound of a lazy evening passing into a long, dark, stormy, and windy night. Hopefully it’s more thrilling than scary, like watching the trees bend while looking out your bedroom window, all the while tucked safely under the covers.

Autumn has written a poem called “Nighttime and Sunshine” and had some thoughts about what she felt the music should feel like. I tried to reflect her words and ideas in the music. In this way I’m proud to have collaborated with Autumn on this melding of visual art and music.

Composer Statement, Becca Stevens
music inspired by Tiffany’s “What My Heart Beats For”

“Music and art are my life.” – Tiffany

Tiffany "What My Heart Beats For"In my musical setting of 18-year-old Tiffany’s painting entitled “What My Heart Beats For,” I took a linear, and somewhat minimalist approach, to tell her story through layered rhythms and wordless melodic textures, all revolving around the “heartbeat” that stands so proudly at the center of Tiffany’s painting. In some places, I literally transcribed elements ​from her painting onto my musical landscape as if they were notes on a music staff.

The first thing you hear in my piece is the heartbeat, the centerpiece of Tiffany’s painting, and the driving force of my piece. Next comes the dark line that zigzags through the center of her painting. This is the pulse, which I treat as a soaring landscape, like mountains and valleys giving dimension to the rhythmic layers surrounding it, just as they do in Tiffany’s painting. A single voice sighing playfully in the center is the beating red heart, and Tiffany.

Next you hear the six purple circles bouncing, followed by the twelve grey-blue squares, dancing downwards, surrounded by the dark rich bass notes that appear like black clouds floating on either side of the beating heart in the center of Tiffany’s painting.

As the moving parts fade away, the pulsing heartbeat carries on through the cascading whispers of the little grey squares at the far right side of Tiffany’s painting, which almost look like dozens of repeat signs, implying that this dance is never-ending.

Hear these songs + see these paintings and many more at the opening for Art Amplified on Thursday, August 13; get all the details HERE.