Arts Report June 18 2019

for Riverview Park Review Fall Issue

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Parodies, Parables and Portraits: Hidden and Not-so Hidden Messages in Some Works of Art I apologize for not being able to submit a report for the June-July edition of our paper. On April fifth I had fallen, fractured my left femur and ball and socket joint, was in the OGH, was operated twice on the same leg and hip and remained in hospital for over a month. I returned home in early May. I'm almost fully recovered and now resuming my former activities. In my second report, I spoke about the auditory messages and meanings by which composers relate to listeners, no matter what genre of music is presented. In this report, I will try to show how creative artists of all kinds, (visual, musical, kinaesthetic, literary), inspire one another, disagree with one another, and provide the means by which many creative works become 'eternal' in the minds and hearts of people throughout the world.

My first example is a musical one created by Stravinsky. Stravinsky, one of the most iconic composers of the early 20th Century, immigrated to the USA from Russia, when he was a very young man. He wasn't handsome in any way, and was on the short side. Soon after he arrived, he noticed that the Tango had equalled and sometimes superseded all other ballroom dances. While he loved to dance, most all women he asked to dance with him, refused. Stravinsky decided to create a Tango for piano, unlike any other Tango composed at that time. In it, he portrays just how awkward a dance it can be. He mocks it, but ensures in the compositional design, that it is a terrifically fun piece to perform!

Mussorgsky, a late 19th Century Russian composer, attended an opening of an exhibition of works by a highly esteemed artist of that period. Mussorgsky was so inspired by the works, he composed one of his most famous suites: "Pictures at an Exhibition". His precise sonic descriptions are so strong, that one does not need to see the actual works of art theselves. You can find many performances plus each of the works he describes on You Tube and in other sites. Google "Pictures at an Exhibition Stravinsky", to experience both the visual and the auditory!

Nina Drew, visual artist said: "For me the streets are full of visual poetry and visual music; it can be one word or a novel-a low humming or a great symphony" Not only is Drew correct from my perspective, but those creators of films, operas, TV series, have proven it many times. For example: the many movies made from Shakespeare's poetry, his somewhat opaque biography, knowledge of historical setting in detail, and more. When attending an opera, we become much more acquainted with the composer, because of the manner in which s/he/ has depicted each character, working plot and theme from his/her setting by the script writer, and the interpretations of the director.

One of the most obvious examples of ekphrasis is a poem being turned into a song, but there are many more examples of visual art and poetry being turned into novels, plays, and plays, poetry becoming visual art. One of the most famous poems is John Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn". Why this poem became one of his most popular was because he described the dancers depicted both eternally dancing, while simultaneously being 'frozen' in time. He also made an ironic statement about music within the poem: Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard/ Are sweeter;/ therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;/ Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,/ Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone.

Many friends have told me that they find poetry the most difficult to understand. They cannot find the 'clues'. One of the main objectives of poetry is to make us ask questions. It is only when we can break down the poem, (in a similar manner in which we can break down each phrase of a piece of music), that we can get a couple of our questions answered. In my first installment of this series on 'messages' in many works of art, was the need for creators to send messages about what we are creating. There can be more than one message. Some poets, like Archibald Lampman's nature poems are very obvious in their message. Poets who've created works like his, have more of their work composed as songs. Although Art Song has become the outcome of many, singers and our accompanists have realized there are also subtle 'messages' and meanings when we analyze what the composers have noticed in the 'subtexts'. Composers send messages in both 'accompaniment' and solo, which are imparted to the listeners.

Poetry, along with all the other arts, continues to portray the necessary 'unknown lyric'. After asking many questions to yourself about a poem, painting, sculpture, play, movie, novel, musical score, photograph and more, you might still not find the answer. A couple of years later, not even thinking of the continual conundrum, suddenly, you get a'flash' from 'nowhere', and then you begin to realize what the 'answer' to that 'elephant' in the hidden chamber of your mind might be. All artistic genres help us realize each of our lives are quests. They help us dig deeper within ourselves to find meaning. We need these questions more than we need ready answers, in order to make our lives meaningful. We don't need to be all that serious every day, but the arts help us play! Even those of us who are seniors need to play with words, colors, shapes, sounds and every possible work of nature! Chagall lived a long a fruitful life. So did Stravinsky, Robert Frost and many others. I hope you have experienced a lovely summer. I look forward to your feedback.

© Diane S. Schmolka, June 18 2019
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