Sunday, March 30, 2008

It's Van Gogh's Birthday!

Vincent van Gogh. Mademoiselle Gachet at Piano. 1890. Oil on canvas.

No, don't cut off your ear. Play some music instead, and think of the colors... Here's a quote from Van Gogh, A Retrospective (edited by Susan Alyson Stein, Beaux Arts Editions, 1986):
He was always comparing painting to music, and in order to gain an even better understanding of the value and nuances of tones, he began to take piano lessons with an old music teacher who was also the organist in Eindhoven. This did not last long, however, because during the lessons Van Gogh incessantly compared the tones of the piano with Prussian blue and dark green, or dark ochre with bright cadmium, so that the good man thought that he was dealing with a madman and became so afraid of him that he discontinued the lessons.

10 comments:

Paulette said...

I thought I would share this, I came across this 11 yr old's music this morning. Kinda fits in with your enjoy music for VG's birthday. Plus I thought of you when I heard her.
http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/45
Violin rather than cello, she quite the speaker also.

Gottagopractice said...

I wonder if van Gogh was a synesthete?

Maricello said...

Thanks for the link Paulette. That young violinist is amazing, not only on the violin, but as a public speaker.

GGP, I am still not sure what a synesthete is, even after looking it up, but Van Gogh certainly had his own way of looking at (and hearing) the world.

cellodonna said...

oooo... spooky ... last night (Sunday) I looked outside and saw a very starry sky and thought of van Gogh. Didn't know it was his BD.

Marisa said...

There was a nice article in Smithsonian Magazine
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/vincent-200801.html

CelloGeek said...

my teacher just asked me whether I saw colors when I think about tones and music (I don't) - he told me that he sees colors when he plays...

Maricello said...

Thanks for the link, Marisa. I am listing it again because it didn't show up completely in my comments (only in the comment e-mailed to me), and others might be interested: Smithsonian

I have been reading van Gogh's letters in the book I quoted in the original post. This because I saw a play, "Inventing van Gogh," which takes a lot of lines from the letters. It features a contemporary artist and van Gogh mutually hallucinating each other.

(Cellodonna, spookiness fit right in with the theme of the play.)

Wonderful play, better if you know a little something about van Gogh and art. :-)

Maricello said...

Cellogeek, I thought colors in music were a pretty normal thing (that I didn't necessarily get). I have a flute book that asks you to play the same phrases in yellow, purple, etc. I think of the yellow as kind of a hollow tone, the purple, richer, fuller. It's interesting as an exercise.

CelloGeek said...

that's really interesting. I did an exercise during one lesson that I found more useful - my teacher gave me a list of perhaps a few hundred words that described emotions (happy, melancholy, sorrow,..etc) and would choose a word and had me play something that represented the word - it was a fun and different exercise for me since I tend to be fairly analytic in my playing and not very emotional

Maricello said...

That makes sense, cellogeek, to play different emotions. I interviewed an art therapist a few months ago who felt that the colors clearly tied into the emotions (red = anger, for instance). I guess that is not the same as notes having a color, but it is related.