Sitka: A Piano Documentary

I’m so excited about yesterday’s launch of H. Paul Moon’s exquisitely designed Sitka: A Piano Documentary! It’s about the rebuilding of The Phillips Collection’s piano, now lovingly called “Sitka,” after the 600–800 year-old Sitka spruce tree native to Alaska from which the new soundboard was made. This film offers a fascinating and beautiful look into what exactly happens at PianoCraft, what I call a ‘hot-rod shops for pianos,’ and how they masterfully dealt with our piano from the inside out. Hearty congratulations, Paul!

Caroline Mousset, Director of Music

Man Ray Set To Music

Local songwriter Andrew Trotter recently visited Man Ray–Human Equations while taking part in a songwriting challenge. “When I walked in, I knew there had to be a song there. After I wrote the lyrics for the challenge, trying to capture some of the qualities of Man Ray’s art, my musical collaborator from Canada, Natalie Edelson, put it to appropriately surreal music and made a demo,” says Trotter. He was kind enough to share the final product with us; check out the demo and an excerpt of the lyrics below.

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Man Ray
White skull, pale breast
Kitchen implement,
Object, soft flesh
Is that what you meant?

Man Ray,
Won’t you come down to play,
The artists at the cafe
Are making their moves
On lovely young things today.

Man Ray
You pictured a derriere,
Each part of her is fair,
But this butterfly you’ll never get,
Slipped out of your camera’s net.

Man Ray,
What is this game you play,
Why don’t you let things stay
As they are—you’re pushing it way too far.

Coming Together in Signac’s L’Orgue

Paul Signac, L’Orgue, Cover design for the composition by Gabriel Fabre on a poem by Charles Cros, 1893. Lithograph with watercolor additions, 14 1/4 x 11 in. Gift of John Rewald. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Paul Signac, L’Orgue, Cover design for the composition by Gabriel Fabre on a poem by Charles Cros, 1893. Lithograph with watercolor additions, 14 1/4 x 11 in. Gift of John Rewald. The Museum of Modern Art, New  York. © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

The recent panel discussion Neo-Impressionists and Symbolists: Allies and Rivals provided me with a better sense of how artists in the exhibition used poetry and music within their work, sometimes trying to create a synergy of the senses or synesthesia. Synesthesia involves the union of sensation from multiple art forms; for example, one could hear music and see color, or see a painting that evokes music. One of the artworks discussed during the panel, L’Orgue by Paul Signac, is illustrated here. The work combines poetry, music, and visual art.

Created in 1891, the piece is a cover design for a musical composition by Gabriel Fabre—which was inspired from a poem by Charles Cros. Little is known of Fabre other than that he fraternized with the Parisian Symbolist circles, including Signac and Cros. Cros a writer, inventor, and poet, aspired  to create poetry that used evocative imagery and lyrical, rhythmic language.

Charles Saunier, a critic for the literary and art magazine La Plume, commented on Signac’s L’Orgue: “First a melancholy German ballad, a melodious rustle of wind, then the harmonies which…persist quietly sad while the voice dies down. Thus smoke from an altar candle rises blue in the abandoned cathedral. For this melody the painter Paul Signac composed a strange lithograph heightened with color; roses, stained glass, altar candles illuminating a coffin.”

I think this perfectly captures the combination and equality of the arts that Signac created in his cover design; a synesthetic experience that allows the viewer to experience poetry, music, and visual art simultaneously.

Kelley Daley, Graduate Intern for Lectures and Programs