Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Painting vs. Music

I am not a musician, and thus my only knowledge of the field is based entirely on stereotypes and clichés. That being said, I suspect that music students have a different experience with their teachers than painting students do. I had a painting teacher who once told me that I had not captured the "character" of a still life I was working on, and then walked away. How many ways could a student interpret that? The music teacher on the other hand has a set of universally accepted terms to draw upon, such as tone and pitch. There is a non-subjective vocabulary in music.

These differences continue in the post-teacher portion of learning and existing. I've always found that musicians tend to congregate more easily than painters. This is of course in part due to the nature of the mediums. Both musicians and painters practice alone, but a musician's eventual goal is to play with other musicians, in everything from a garage band to a symphony orchestra. The same can be said for actors, who even form their own labour unions. The painter's experience, in terms of relating to other painters, is quite different. The painting above, oil on plywood, about 10 by 11", was the last painting I did as a student. Consequently, it was also the last time I painted with other painters, and quite possibly the last time I ever will.


léa said...

Well, a lot of that I agree with, though I don't understand paintings much (and I'm not an expert at music either). But I won't say anything about paintings, I'd be biased (I'm not saying you are, people who are not in touch with music experience it to some extent, whereas I don't experience paintings much, and I don't really "get" them). All I can say is that musicians only have to perform the music, and the latter is the painting for the composer (if it is not an improvisation). It's as if every time one has to see a painting a group of people have to paint it up quick (they would be the musicians). The real painter in the music world is the composer of the music, he creates it, and in that sense the job is as solitary as any other, unless there is collaboration, and such collaboration can also occur in the painting world if two people decide to contribute to a painting, I guess. The musician's only contribution (if not improvising, I say again) is to "interpret" the composition (an art in itself). That said, I'd really like to "feel" paintings a little more that I do right now, I sincerely wish I could be moved by the things that move everybody else.

Sören Dawson said...

That's a very good point, léa, in that composers are the best analogy for painters in the music world; one I had honestly not contemplated. To add to your argument, we could use the example that a composer does not have to be present when the work is played, just like a painting can be viewed without the painter. One possible counter-argument is that, to my understanding, most composers are musicians themselves, and most musicians can become composers. I still suspect there is a stronger dependency within the music realm, and as such different experiences amongst individuals are created. The composer still needs musicians to finalize the work.

Regarding your supposed inability to appreciate paintings, you in fact experience elements of it every day. Publications, adverts, and even propaganda, to name a few, use visual tools that where developed by artists throughout history. Your own enjoyment of painting could simply be a matter of honing in on which visual styles impact you the most, and which paintings incorporate that.

léa said...

It is true that most composers are musicians themselves. And it is true that we will never know how Beethoven really wanted his work to sound like, the musicians are the final artists in the musical world, they give the last brushstroke. Your argument about my exposure to paintings is interesting. I guess I may be more exposed to visual arts than I may think. When it comes to paintings, I can at most say that a painting is original (at least to me). But for instance, in the movie "Modigliani" (if you've seen it), I do not understand why everyone is amazed at the painting the painter had drawn, I thought the previous paintings were far more original than that of Modigliani. I felt like I was unable to grasp real art, that I was maybe like the man who had "a lot of money but no taste" in the starting of the movie. Or maybe the filmakers are just pretending his painting was better than the other ones assuming nobody would tell the difference. I just may not be visually oriented, I think. Though some of my favorite elements from certain movies are visual (well, they're movies anyway), for instance I like to see the recurring image of Latika looking up from near the train in "Slumdog Millionaire" (I'm a movie fan, I also enjoy classical movie scores), I thought it was like an original painting. I've just always thought that there is a quasi-universal artistic taste when it comes to painting or drawing as there is in music (most people think of Mozart as a genius for instance (as I do, I like classical music), the same way Leonardo Da Vinci or Michaelangelo are seen as geniuses in their fields). If such a consensus exists for paintings/drawings/sculptures, I must lack it. And I sincerely wish I didn't. I do not feel that independent spontaneity I feel with regards to music I like when confronted with paintings. I usually discover a considerable of other people enjoyed the music I had, but also realize to my dismay that many enjoyed a painting I hadn't. Anyway, take care.