The Crucifixion by Odilon Redon

Odilon Redon: The Crucifixion.

This is a diminutive yet extraordinarily striking painting, with it’s vividly abstract layered patchwork of burning red, orange, brown and yellow painted background. It depicts just three human images in the foreground; the central figure of Jesus on the cross, whilst to the left and right are the mourning figures of Mary, and barely visible on the right-hand side of the painting is St John.

The piece was composed as a meditation to accompany the painting. The intention is for the music to draw the listener in, encouraging them to linger whilst viewing the painting in a moment of quiet contemplation. The music asks for the listener to wait as it slowly unfurls, giving the viewer time to witness the events that are depicted in the painting, allowing them to go deeper inside the work, and to discover the artist’s intention and reason for the painting.

 

My composition is meant as a meditation to accompany the painting. The intention is for the music to draw the listener in, hopefully encouraging them to linger whilst viewing the painting in a moment of quiet contemplation. The music asks for the listener to wait as it slowly unfurls, giving the viewer time to become a witness to the events that are depicted in the painting, allowing them to go deeper inside the work, and to discover the intention behind, and the reason for the painting.

I have tried to capture the spiritual and aesthetic essence of Redon’s work, and to sonically recreate the scene that is depicted, including the colours, the layers and shadows, the thoughts and the emotions.

The music starts in a very sparse and minimal way that mirrors the minimalist style of the painting. It slowly develops into a much denser and multi-layered, yet still quite a reflective and contemplative piece. I love working with sound in such a way that it imitates the sound of the human voice.

Before starting to compose, I visited the gallery and spent quite a long time studying it from various angles and distances. I noticed the size and shape of the painting, the colours, its location in the gallery, I noted the emotions that it infers and what I believed the artist was trying to say through the symbolism that he used. At the same time I prepared a list of words that the painting suggested to me. These words were personal to me; no doubt others would think of different ways to describe the painting. The list included the words; quiet, stillness, red, ghostlike, and cry, amongst others. These words would become an extremely useful tool for me during the composition process.

The music was recorded in Logic Pro X, and consists of twenty-two tracks of audio. The tracks were recorded onto magnetic tape before being imported as an audio file into Logic Pro. I think that making an initial analogue recording gives the final digital recording a more organic and somehow human feel to the sounds that are used, particularly the sounds that are quite vocal- esque in nature.

I have used a variety of sounds and textures in the composition, these include analogue synth, tracks of ebowed 7 string fretless electric bass, there is also a granular synth that appears at approximately 3 minutes 20, which I feel adds a really nice grainy texture just below the surface of the piece at that point. I also recorded some short pieces onto my Bastl Instruments sample player/granulator, I have the original clean track playing with the granulated part playing quietly underneath it. Again this serves to add a variety of texture to the piece.

I do feel that the timbre of the sounds used, especially in a piece of this kind and in this context, they need to compliment one another. I was very careful not to introduce a sound or a part that could become a distraction to the person viewing the painting. With this composition, the painting and the act of viewing the painting were the most important events, the sole aim of my music here is purely to enhance the viewing experience.

 

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2 thoughts on “The Crucifixion by Odilon Redon”

  1. Using magnetic tape as your original recording medium will certainly have given your composition a certain sound which is not often found in modern electroacoustic music. I really like the idea of producing a composition which is intended to have a mediative effect in conjunction with the painting; it’s innovative and allows the two pieces to work in synergy with each other.

    Like

  2. Kevin,

    Since the first time I listened to your piece, I was intrigued by the type of procedures you carried out to create, record and process certain sounds, and finally, now I can read it. As William pointed out, today it is a pleasant surprise to find pieces that have incorporated recordings made analogously.

    Like

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