Programme Notes

‘Chromeotopograhy’ explores Derain’s brash use of colour, his personal perspective of portraits with the advent of photography, and the process of producing the work. Derain worked quickly, almost throwing oil onto the canvas. As a result, I chose to compose making use of a big, dramatic colourful gestures and a lush harmonic approach, which reflect the bold use of colour and the unapologetic slightly ‘rough around the edges’ final result which adds so much to the character of the work.

Derain, Andre, 1880-1954; Bartolomeo Savona
Derain, Andre; Bartolomeo Savona; The Barber Institute of Fine Arts; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/bartolomeo-savona-33009

Extended Notes

Within this composition I wanted to explore colour, flamboyance and a certain frantic but emotionally aware and sensitive mood, while also drawing parallels with Derain’s process of painting and the human element of the work. Structurally I broke the composition up into 3 sections with an overlying arch form, which parallels Derain’s process of writing the composition in 3 separate 20-minute sittings. I also included an underlying heartbeat throughout the composition to emphasise the human element of the composition. To further emphasise the human element of the painting, I kept the sounds very natural sounding, and utilised a piano and a guitar. I did decide to gently distort some sounds in the middle section of the piece to add some tasteful variation.

The colour of this painting is what first drew me to choosing it to use as the basis for my composition. Derain fearlessly throws colour onto the Canvas; the yellow and green background shows through the gaps in the blue of Savona’s suit, suggesting the painting was produced quickly (which in fact it was). Although clashing, the pink, green and yellow combination is never garish, but rather exciting and flamboyant. To reflect this, I made us of a crystalliser, which chopped the sound up into lots of small chunks, delayed them, and pitched them either up or down. These textures have a sound which glistens and never stands still, which I find quite exciting, evoking a similar emotional response to the fearless use of colour in this painting.

Harmonically I made use of a lot of suspended and Lydian harmony. These types of chords sound really rich and beautiful, and in the case of Lydian voicings, can have a lot of harmonic flexibility through just changing the bass note. I purposely didn’t focus on voice leading within this composition, because although I like the sound of these harmonies, I didn’t want the composition to become a wash of synth textures found in a lot of progressive metal and fusion.

Capturing the energy that Derain put into the painting was really important in my compositional process, and I wanted the composition to paint and picture of Derain painting the picture. This influenced by gestural thinking quite heavily; I wanted gestures which reflected Derain chucking paint around, and which also bloomed gently into nice, colourful chords. As a result I used a lot of gestures which had long attacks and long delay, and combined resonant material with more cut up and exciting material with much more movement.

Finally I wanted my composition to also be able to exist as a single, standalone work, while still working in synergy with the painting. I feel I achieved this quite naturally without worrying about it too much. The composition ended naturally, and wrote itself towards the end, which I feel contributed to it’s musical integrity and it’s synergy with the painting.


1 thought on “‘Chromeotopography’”

  1. William,

    I must confess that I like the title of your piece, and that I love the absence of the bells in this final verson. In my view, ‘Chromeotopograhy’ feels more cohesive now.
    I completely agree that your piece could work autonomously.


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