Get the Picture?

« previous episode | next episode »

Monday, August 05, 2013

This week, Exploring Music turns its eyes and ears to music inspired by the visual arts, including Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition," Hindemith's "Mathis der Maler," and Rachmaninoff's "Isle of the Dead."

Comments [4]

Constantine from New York

It came out twice again! Please delete one, as usual (and this one).

Aug. 09 2013 10:38 PM
Constantine from New York

I beg to differ. Major and minor modes certainly suggest different moods, for example. If there is an aural component in what the music is depicting, the effect can be quite striking. For example, in the third movement of Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, the suggestion of distant thunder is unmistakeable. In Dvorak's symphonic poem The Wood Dove, the feigned grief of the widow is vividly suggested. I agree that as a general rule you need to know the program in order to know what the music is illustrating, but this does not invalidate "program" music any more than the fact that music is only one component in ballet, opera or drama invalidates the music composed for those purposes (or keep the music from being pleasurable in its own right). But if you do know the program, music can illustrate it vividly. My favorite example is the change to major at the end of Debussy's piano piece Jardins sous la pluie (Gardens in the rain). If you just know the title, you can't help hearing the sun come out (at least I can't). Incidentally, program music didn't start in the 19th century. There are examples in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book (16th century), for example. Also, don't forget Rameau and Couperin (among others).

Aug. 09 2013 10:36 PM
Constantine from New York

I beg to differ. Major and minor modes certainly suggest different moods, for example. If there is an aural component in what the music is depicting, the effect can be quite striking. For example, in the third movement of Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, the suggestion of distant thunder is unmistakeable. In Dvorak's symphonic poem The Wood Dove, the feigned grief of the widow is vividly suggested. I agree that as a general rule you need to know the program in order to know what the music is illustrating, but this does not invalidate "program" music any more than the fact that music is only one component in ballet, opera or drama invalidates the music composed for those purposes (or keep the music from being pleasurable in its own right). But if you do know the program, music can illustrate it vividly. My favorite example is the change to major at the end of Debussy's piano piece Jardins sous la pluie (Gardens in the rain). If you just know the title, you can't help hearing the sun come out (at least I can't). Incidentally, program music didn't start in the 19th century. There are examples in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book (16th century), for example. Also, don't forget Rameau and Couperin (among others).

Aug. 09 2013 10:36 PM
Professor Kevin Moore from Brooklyn NY

I am writing a series of articles on picturing music. Lots of talk about "translating" pictures into music as though the language of music could picture anything at all (music the invisible muse). Yet radio announcers and musicologists speak as though the possibility were possible, like translating French into Italian. The problem, of course, reaches back into the 19th century and the need for absolute music as a pure form art to have content beyond the matrix of notes, cords and so forth of its making. Content is stipulated for absolute music and so I surmise is picturing in music. There are no Pictures at an Exhibition if the exhibition is musical. KZM

Aug. 05 2013 11:30 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.