Although we may typically approach art objects through the act of looking, listening offers a surprising and impactful way to engage with the Eskenazi Museum’s diverse collection. This pathway encourages us to blend our auditory and visual senses as we explore an assortment of art objects through music. Along the way, we will see how artists translate music into visual mediums as well as how art of any kind can be seen and heard. In addition to object descriptions, this pathway provides gallery-goers with activities, music, questions, and thinking strategies that center the act of listening to enliven our artistic encounters.
Pairing Art and Music: Interior with Music
In Interior with Music, slinking lines and angular forms rhythmically divide a cluster of intersecting planes to create a visual symphony that viewers not only see but hear. Like avant-garde artists such as James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Wassily Kandinsky, Weber blurs sight and sound by translating music into the visual language of line, color, and form. Writing for MoMA’s 1930 retrospective exhibition of his work, Weber explained that Interior with Music visually captures the experience of listening to music as it “wafts in space.” Consider how Weber transforms music into a visual format through swooping lines and swatches of color. What sounds, instruments, or emotions does this painting bring to mind? Is there a particular song that you hear? Try comparing Interior with Music to Russian composer Igor Stravinsky’s introduction to The Rite of Spring (1913). What do Weber’s and Stravinsky’s works have in common? What differentiates them? By attuning ourselves to the sound of visual elements, we learn to hear what we see and embrace, in Weber's words, “moments when our senses seem to take on the functions of each other.”
Max Weber (1881 - 1961)
Interior with Music
oil on canvas
58.5 x 38.5 inches, 148.6 x 97.8 cm
Courtesy Art Bridges
Eskenazi Gallery, European and American Art, Modern and Contemporary, first floor
Examining an art object often involves understanding how it employs the seven elements of art, including: color, form, line, shape, space, texture, and value. For this activity, try describing Interior with Music using the eight elements of music defined below. Does the painting appear loud or soft? Is there a rhythm that organizes its composition? What is its tonal quality? Using the eight elements of music, consider how visual properties produce aural sensations that imbue art objects with musicality.
Dynamics – How loud or soft the music is
Form – The order and arrangement of the parts of the music
Harmony – The instruments that support the melody with chords
Melody – A series of pitches that makes a tune
Rhythm – How long or short a sound is
Texture – The layers of sounds, how sparse or dense the music is
Timbre – The unique sound quality of an instrument or sound
Tonality – The overall sound of the music as pleasant or unpleasant
Enter the gallery (Eskenazi Gallery, European and American Art, Modern and Contemporary, first floor) and proceed forward. Turn left at the ‘focus gallery’ now displaying artworks from the Art Bridges Collection. Interior with Music hangs on the left-hand wall.