Landscape in Corsica by Henri Matisse

Programme notes:

Although it is one of his early paintings, Landscape in Corsica displays the strong fascination that Matisse had with colours, he himself confessed: “I finally came to consider colours as forces, to be assembled as inspiration dictates. (…) All the colours sing together; their strength is determined by the needs of the chorus. It’s like a musical chord.” (Skalaroff). In this piece I aim to evoke the relationship between the diverse colours, textures and spaces present in the painting through the alteration of the recordings of a guitar, inviting the listener to wander sonically inside the landscape.

Extended notes:

Considering that this painting is a landscape, as a composer I had to decide what was the approach that I wanted to follow for this work. At first, I did not know if I wanted to use field recordings that truly described the elements displayed in Matisse’s work (For instance, recording a similar landscape to the one depicted in the painting), or if I wanted to use other sounds that could not be easily associated with the elements presented in the artwork. As the weeks went by, I realized that every time I looked at Landscape in Corsica, my attention was focused mainly on some characteristics and elements that initially seemed secondary to me: the colors, the textures and the use of space.

Playing with the visual and musical duality of the term ‘colour’, I decided to incorporate recordings of a musical instrument that I associated with wood (‘tree’). That is why, on the one hand I made a series of field recordings in places where trees predominated (walking over branches and dry leaves, leaves blowing in the wind); and on the other hand, I also recorded an acoustic guitar performing different types of harmonics, slides, trills and tremolos, as well as some unconventional sounds (rubbing the string, scratching the soundboard and playing at the head upon the six strings). Later, once I  started to edit the sounds, I prefered to use mainly the recordings of the guitar over the leaves and branches.

To organize these sounds, I setted a timeline within the painting to help me organize the different sections of my composition.

timeline-LIC

In each section, I tried to represent the combinations of colors, textures and spaces that characterise them. In the case of colours, I tried to follow Matisse’s philosophy to establish certain frequencies and harmonies: “Colours can be transformed by relation; a black becomes red-black when you put it next to a cold color like Prussian blue, blue-black if you put it alongside a color that has an extremely hot basis: orange, for example.” (Skalaroff). Considering this relativity in the perception of colours, I did not associate a colour with an specifique frequency or note: I left space for subjectivity, relating the colours according to my perception of ‘brightness/darkness’, and then associating them with sounds of ‘high frequency/low frequency’ respectively. Another important element in this piece was the use of space: Landscape in Corsica is full of elements placed at different depths. To translate this visual idea into sound, I made correlations between the visual stimuli and the perception of aural space, moving sounds constantly between the left and right speaker and playing with the dynamics to intensify the idea of ​​’depth’.

The sounds were edited in Ableton and Audacity, and later they were organized and mixed in Reaper.

Reference:

Skalaroff, Miranda. 2013. “As Inspiration Dictates”: Henri Matisse on Color. http://blogs.getty.edu/iris/as-inspiration-dictates-henri-matisse-on-color/ [access date: 23 April 2018]

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