“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
— Berthold Auerbach
For some, the sound of silence is all that’s required to enjoy and appreciate a visit to an art museum. For others, the right kind of music can take the experience to another level. And, for a growing number of musicians, creating and curating music for, and in, an art museum environment is putting a new and exciting spin on their creativity. This month, we hear three perspectives on the relationship between music and art spaces – from UQ Art Museum, the UQ School of Music and the musicians themselves.
UQ Art Museum perspective: Dr Campbell Gray, Director
Q: Music has the power to create atmosphere or set a tone, but it also has the potential to distract or detract. When it comes to art museums, what role can or should music play?
A: You’re right on both counts – I find that I need silence – or close to it while I’m thinking. On the other hand, I really do enjoy listening to music when I have the space to do so. This is true in an art museum too. If it occupies a space more conscious than background music, but not as demanding as concert music, its style and tempo can create subtle metaphors for the themes of the exhibition and can enhance the experience very well. To achieve this it needs to be carefully selected. The UQ Art Museum utilises music for atmosphere, music that creates metaphor and music as performance to be engaged with. Of course with such a wonderful organ in the Museum, music (or its producer) is visible and is often performed at lunch times and on other occasions. I love the presence of music in the Museum. It has so many opportunities and it can teach a great deal when combined with the works of art.
Q: As a university art museum with an outstanding School of Music on its doorstep, what kind of exciting possibilities are there for collaboration with UQ Art Museum?
A: I desire a very strong collaboration with the School of Music; however, at this point in time, the Museum building is our limiter. We have had, and are having, music composed for our exhibitions. Various groups and individuals from the School perform for us at our exhibitions. Accomplished students have worked closely with us to establish quite exciting events and atmospheres. We have provided opportunities for School of Music Concerts to occur here. I love working with these very fine and talented people and together we’ve been able to produce quite wonderful moments in visual and aural experience. We will continue to engage in these very stimulating projects.
UQ School of Music perspective: Adam Chalabi, Associate Professor
Q: What impact does environment have on musical performance, particularly in relationship to a space like UQ Art Museum?
A: The setting for a concert can have a profound effect upon performance relating directly to physical and practical issues such as acoustics and positioning of musicians, but also in more abstract (and interesting) ways relating to the ambience of the space. It is always an exciting proposition when art forms come together and the relationships and juxtaposition of music and visual art can be evocatively and, sometimes, viscerally explored in a space such as the UQ Art Museum.
Q: UQ Art Museum and UQ’s School of Music have recently collaborated for a number of performance opportunities. What kind of exciting possibilities do you envisage in the future and what benefits do you anticipate for both the students as well as the Art Museum and music-loving audiences?
A: The relationship between the School of Music and the UQ Art Museum is a wonderful opportunity to promote our art forms with a powerful and unified voice through the entire university and into the wider community. I anticipate that the relationship will strengthen and grow into a fully-fledged concert series in the museum, bringing new audiences to the School of Music concert series, and concert-goers into a stimulating and non-traditional environment in which to experience those performances. The Art Museum is a wonderful acoustic in which to enjoy an array of ensembles and has the potential to establish itself as one of the leading performance venues in the city and bring our students into direct and working contact with some of the country’s leading musicians and artists.
Musician perspectives: Ben Heim and Connor D’Netto, UQ School of Music students
Q: You’ve both recently been involved with a number of collaborative projects with UQ Art Museum – how have you found the experience and the opportunity to perform in the Art Museum space?
A: (Connor) The Art Museum is a really exciting place to put on an event – to work with music and art together. In the average concert venue, the audience sits looking in one direction; the musicians are in front of them, slightly separated, or on a stage, and the music comes at you from one direction. In the Museum, the possibilities are endless for how we can change things up: the sounds can emerge from all around the audience; distant and unseen, immersive and captivating them, encouraging them to move through the space and to experience the music and art from any vantage they wish – it’s really an exciting opportunity.
Q: Do you find that working with and responding to the Art Museum’s curatorial program extends your practice or pushes you creatively?
A: (Ben) Definitely. Music and visual art have a long history of cross-pollination and reflection, and I believe this is even more prevalent in our current media-centric culture. Music is so often paired with visual imagery in the modern experience that it has almost become second nature for us as composers to write, and have our works realised, in tandem with some kind of visual stimuli. As for being pushed creatively, the act of responding to an artwork, I find, always yields a new kind of tangible inspiration. A certain gesture of a brush or pencil may provide the impetus for a musical motif, or phrase, while the framing of a photograph may yield new conceptions of form and structure – not to mention all the inspiration that can be gained from pondering another artist’s underlying ideas and motivation.
Keen to immerse yourself in light and sound at UQ Art Museum? Join Ben Heim and Connor D’Netto (Argo) for an evening of new chamber music composed in response to the current exhibition Light Play: Ideas, Optics, Atmosphere at UQ Art Museum on Friday 30 October 2015 at 6.30 pm.