The object that I found to be the most interesting (not an easy pick by any means!) was the small blue book of e.e cummings’ poetry. I choose this object because of my love of his poetry, which made being able to personally hold a very early copy of his work particularly meaningful. The book itself was beautiful, the cover was very simplistic, however it was a really rich shade of blue. Cummings’ poetry is poetry that is very much meant to be seen visually, as a lot of the meaning of the poetry is found in the way he chooses to display the poems on the page. I have many books of his works, so although it was not my first time seeing the poetry in person, it did make it particularly meaningful to be able to psychically interact with something that I consider extremely important to me. Not to overstate it, but it really remind me of the concept of transcendence, in the way that I was able to derive such personal meaning from an object that was originally created decades ago. By physically interacting with the object I had a real sense of connection with all of those who were impacted by his poetry, even though we might be separated by decades. I found this to be really comforting, and really liked our visit to the special collections.
Out of everything in Special Collections, there was nothing else that I was drawn to as much as these manuscripts by George Crumb. It is easy to tell from the manuscripts that his work was avant-garde, but you can also tell by listening to the pieces being played. The pieces that I looked at were Crumb’s Prophecies of Nostradamus and Agnus Dei.
What is quite intriguing about Prophecies of Nostradamus is unless you are some sort of musical genius, if you were to listen to the piece without looking at the sheet music, you would have absolutely no clue what the time signature is (13/4 then 11/4 in fact), and completely lose track of the idea of what constitutes one beat. I feel that this was one of Crumb’s main objectives–to confuse others and get them thinking about what music is supposed to sound like. I can see why he would call this the title that it is, as Nostradamus is most famous for prophecies about disaster, and this piece definitely sounds like the world is about to end, with his use of constant secondary dominants and forte dynamics.
Now every Agnus Dei that I have heard is different, but this is one extremely different format wise. The format is rightfully in the shape of a peace sign, as there is a part in piece saying “Dona nobis pacem,” which means “Give us peace” in latin. You also have to actively look for where this piece starts (it starts at the left diagonal line of the peace sign). This makes it difficult for the musician playing not only because of the format, but also because it requires vocalization from them. I would not go and say that this is the most creative version I have seen (go look at Agnus Dei by Leonard Bernstein), but it certainly is something else.
With both of these pieces, seeing them in person as opposed to online gives the person looking at it a greater sense of interaction. Not in the sense of just being able to touch it, but being able to read them easier, see all the small notes that you may not have seen on the screen, and you do not need to tilt your head in impossible angles.
This is a book of poems by E. E. Cummings, published in 1925, just after the heyday of artistic cubism. Upon first glance, the reader can see that Cummings experimented with different ways of laying out his poems on the page. One of the important aspects of cubist art was appealing to different senses, such as the use of textured elements to appeal to the sense of touch through sight. Similarly, cubist literature, such as these poems, use the spacing on the page to influence the sense of sound–the spacing between words affects how one hears the poem in one’s head. Cummings was by no means the only writer to utilize these techniques during the cubist era–both Apollinaire and Gertrude Stein were well known for creating visual poetry, often in even more outrageous ways than included in this compilation.
There are several examples of creatively spaced poetry in this book, including Songs I and XI and Portraits VIII, which are all pictured below. However, possibly the most intriguing use of space is in Sonnet VII. Sonnet VII is a Petrarchan (or Italian) Sonnet, following the structure of an octet (abbaabba) followed by a sestet (cddeec) and written in iambic pentameter. Sonnets are one of the most rigid forms of poetry, and are usually identifiable first by their shape. However, Sonnet VII does not look like a “regular” sonnet: it has breaks mid-octet, mid-sestet, and even mid-line. For readers who are familiar with the rhythm of reading a sonnet, it almost feels awkward to read the poem with the added spacing. Since this poem is already a very sensory poem, appealing to both smell and sight, this additional play on the sound of the poem provides the perfect example of how cubism influenced the senses of literature.
Both during and after the visit to Special Collections, I found myself repeatedly drawn to the elaborate, complex, and geometrical manuscripts of George Crumb’s Makrokosmos I & II. These pieces, written for amplified piano, are, in their own right, gorgeous pieces of musical art, though they present a massive visual challenge to any prospective performer. For this post, I selected two pieces of the manuscript: part one of Makrokosmos, Volume I, and The Magic Circle of Infinity.
I chose to include this portion of Makrokosmos in order to best show Crumb’s stunning manuscript independent of his concrete works. Despite being a fairly regular physical size, the sheer size of the grand stavesand notation is staggering; the manuscript often features single parts involving three staves in which two overlap to voice the bass and the independent third staff voices the right hand. In terms of technicality, the piece certainly does not pull any punches—septuplet 64th notes, trills, and dectuplet moving lines glare from the page, as if to say “I dare you.”
I also chose to include the circular manuscript, The Magic Circle of Infinity,
because it epitomizes the remarkable work of Crumb (as well as corresponds to my astrological sign). As a composer, Crumb very much wanted to challenge typical conventions of linear part writing, giving the musician something new to focus on, something to alter their viewpoint. Since sheet music is infrequently seen by audience members or listeners, Makrokosmos is almost entirely directed towards the performer, as it is up to them to decipher the ornate and mind-bending manuscript.
During my visit to special collections, I was interested in the photography journal, Camera Work. This journal was one of the first to introduce
photography as a form rather a useful tool. I found this book because photography is my favorite form of art and the only one I successfully participate in. Camera Work was published in 1903 by Alfred Stieglitz.
The journal displays black and white prints of pictures that encapture nature, people, and buildings. It is evident that each print was developed in a different way, so while some appear more clear and detailed, others appear more vague and almost appear as a sketch or a painting. Another aspect of the journal that contributes to the design, is the font of the articles. Each letter that starts an article is larger than the rest and very articulate and detailed. Additionally, even the ads featured in the magazine are well designed and contribute to the detailed aesthetic of the full journal.
Finally, being able to inspect Camera Work in person versus online was very impactful to my viewing of the work. I was able to feel the rough-edged thick
pages, and see the prints of the photography in the same quality as those who viewed it in 1903. These details are important because they reinforce the period that the work comes from, which is important when viewing the photographs, and reading the content. Although many of the photographs pictured may seem ordinary to the current day viewer, they were the first photographs that were taken that were meant to be visually appealing.
The object that I found to be the most interesting in Special Collections was the Fantasia book by Deems Taylor from 1940. As one of the earliest Walt Disney films, Fantasia is still revered by many to be an outstanding example of early 2D animation cinema, and as one of the first movies to combine classical music with artistic animation, it still remains significant in media arts culture. Although Fantasia flopped at the time and caused Walt Disney Studios to lose a lot of money, Fantasia is now a Disney classic and stands out through its unique usage of animated characters to tell stories of the music that it was inspired by. The book itself is quite big, hardcover with fabric binding in black and white print. Interestingly enough, however, colored renderings of Fantasia concept art have been pasted in over the black and white lithography that give a new dimension to the illustrations of the book and draw the reader into the story. Musical scores of the corresponding scenes flow through the book so that one can visually understand the way the music and the artwork work together to create a modern cinematic experience for the time. If I had not seen the object in person, I would not have known that the colored images were pasted in nor have been able to feel how thick the pages were. I found this book particularly interesting to look at because, as an aspiring Disney artist, I draw a lot of inspiration from the Golden Age of Disney and the original conceptual artwork that focuses more on animation as an art form and not a money pit. Understanding the work put into making this book and seeing the original concept art is a great experience and I feel a greater appreciation for Fantasia after viewing the book in person.
Created in 1937, Picasso’s painting Guernica was created in protest to the bombing of Guernica by Nazi Germany at the command of the Spanish government as a part of a civil war. Picasso shows the death and suffering caused by the bombing in this work. The human figures are seen suffering immensely and the bodies are contorted and abstract. The pair of people on the leftmost side, at the feet of the bull embodies this. The woman holds the body of a dead man. Picasso shows the woman with a long, mutilated neck and open mouth as if she is shrieking in grief because of the death of a loved one. Picasso uses black, white, and grey in various chaotic patterns. This was done in order to display the chaos that the citizens in Guernica faced. Picasso uses overly dramatic contrast of black and white. In the background there are flaming buildings and broken walls displaying the chaos that was caused by a civil war. The gigantic light bulb in the room represents the sun as it illuminates the terrible scene facing Guernica. The person on the far right of the painting seems to be tormented, showing the world the agonizing conditions that the people of Spain had to live through during the civil war.
Pablo PIcasso was a prominent painter, widely known for his fluxing and contrasting painting styles that kept aggressively changing over the course of his lifetime. “The Old Guitarist” was painted in 1904 with oil based paint on a canvas. It was painted during the artist’s “Blue Period” which was characterized by a heavy use of various tones of blue. In most paintings, this had a profound effect in the feelings they each depicted. In fact, most of the paintings that were created during that period are often perceived as somewhat “cold”, “melancholic”, and overall “depressing”. Furthermore, this painting was influenced greatly by the ideals of the expressionist movement. It was all about painting “how you see something” contrary to the past impressionist movement which was all about depicting an impression about “how you felt about a moment ‘en plein air’ “. That is exactly what one can see in “The Old Guitarist”; a detailed painting of an old, week, blind man hunched onto his guitar in the streets. Nevertheless, what makes this painting rather depressing is not the objective but rather the subjective. It is the lens through which Picasso depicted that situation what really makes this painting shocking to the public in general. It is that monochromatic selection of different tones of blue that create an emphasis on the lack of emotions thereof. Nevertheless, that monotony is broken by that one object that this man is holding… the guitar. All of those blue tones make this old man appear, spiritless, it is as if this man just passed away. This is why for me, the guitar represents a symbol for something that will live well after this man’s death. It is the music that he once created the one thing that will prosper well after this man’s death, this is the reason why this man is holding onto the guitar so strongly.
All of these elements unite to create a dull, shocking painting that reflect a situation through the perception of the artist. It is not an impression but a perception of reality. Furthermore, this change in ideals from impressionism to expressionism can be reflected in the difference of painting styles. Rather than depicting an impression about how something feels through the use of broken, dappled colors on a canvas, this painting uses monochromatism to represent a reality through a subjective mean.
“Portrait of Ambroise Vollard” (1910) is a painting by Pablo Picasso from Picasso’s Analytic Cubism period (lecture). I noticed how the forehead of the person in the painting seems long, like a gorilla’s. The person’s head also seems to be outlined in white, which might mean they have white hair. I looked at it a bit closer, and I noticed how there seems to be an outline of a jacket on the right side, and maybe a shirt in the middle indicating that the person in the painting is wearing a suit. The person’s face seems neutral, not really emotional. Compared to the impressionists, Picasso’s painting seems similarly “messy”, like the negative review about impressionism claiming how it was just “…dirtying three-quarters of a canvas,” (Emile Cardon). However, I do not dislike the “messiness”, but rather noticed how it appears “messy” like an impressionist’s painting. It also seems to be unnatural in color in certain areas which is another similarity to impressionism, or at least to the definition that we learned, like the person’s face is unnaturally red on one side, but implies how Picasso was “analyzing,” (use of period name) the person’s face, or how the chin is a purple red. (Note: Professor Johnson drew attention to the chin in the lecture, which influenced the last sentence.)
Upon my first glance at Violin and Guitar, one of the of artworks Pablo Picasso created during his Cubism period, I was amazed by how Picasso disassembles the violin into small parts and put them in such dimensional way on canvas that allow the viewers to reassemble these parts into a complete instrument while interpreting this artwork in their minds. This piece was painted during Picasso’s late period of analytical Cubism, during which I think he “subjective” the object and maximized the information while he painted. After I took a more careful look at this artwork and noticed more details, I realized he somehow combined the two string instruments together on the painting because of their certain similarities, but depicted detailed difference as well. For instance, from Picasso’s perspective, these two pieces of instrument shared the same “body”, but have different top parts: the violin has a leaned top part while the guitar has a vertical. The sound holes that only violins have also illustrate the difference. After a closer look, I realized it is the seemingly dimensional shapes in the middle of the painting that create a sense of dimension for the first impression.
Analytical Cubists works compared to impressionist works have more lines and apply more dark colors. In contrast to Monet’s artworks, Picasso’s paintings used less bright colors and have more clear and even maximized characteristics of an object. Additionally, Cubism artworks are more involved with geometry and mathematics.