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Seeing Music at 92Y

Published on
March 24

Image: (Left) El Quitasol, Francisco Goya, 1777, Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain. (Right)  Project for a city gate in Kiev–main façade, Viktor Hartmann, 1869, Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Russian Literature (Pushkin House) 

I recently attended a concert series hosted by​ 92nd Street Y called Seeing Music: A Festival at the Intersection of Sound and Sight. As a visual artist, I was curious to observe the plethora of interpretations and discourse surrounding how we perceptively see music. The rich expressiveness of melodic harmonies are evocative of so many diverse and contrasting memories, visuals, and emotions.

The first of the two concerts I attended was a performance by virtuoso pianist, Garrick Ohlsson, playing a series of arrangements by Enrique Granados (1867-1916) and Modest Mossorgsky (1839-1881). Both Granados and Mossorgsky were directly influenced by specific artworks and artists.

Spanish composer and musician Enrique Granados’ Goyescas were inspired by renowned painter, Francisco Goya (1746-1828). Granados identified very closely with Goya; both artists sought to infuse their works with romantic themes and national pride. His piano compositions, he proclaimed, were a musical tribute to the romanticized world of “young, vibrant women and their handsome, dashing suitors,” that were often illustrated in Goya’s earlier paintings (Hyslop, 92Y). Prior to Ohlsson’s recital, images of Goya’s earlier paintings were briefly projected for the audience to view––though I almost wish those paintings were displayed throughout the performance to create a stronger dialogue between the sounds and sights.

Russian melodist Modest Mussorgsky’s pieces were played during the second half of the recital. These were my favorite piano compositions to watch Ohlsson perform. I was blown away by Ohlsson’s playing, all without any sliver of sheet music, it was a treat to see such mastery first hand. Mussorgsky’s work titled, Pictures at an Exhibition, was a tribute to the talented young painter and architect, Viktor Hartmann (1834-1873).

The second concert created a stronger comparison between sound and sight. Violinist Julian Rachlin’s articulate playing of Beethoven’s Violin Sonata Nos. 1, 6, 9, and 10 and visual artist Clifford Ross’s animations of waves attempted to generate a bond between vision and melody. While it was interesting to see the symbolic comparison of sound waves and ocean waves, at times the movements felt disjointed, and I often found myself spending more time trying to line up the visual rhythm of the serenely animated waves with Rachlin’s passionate and powerful playing of Beethoven.

Conclusively, the seriesshed light on my personal opinions of music, movement, and visual art. Maybe there isn’t a perfect synchronization or flawless fusion between different modes of creative language. While each method of expression is unique in it’s own peculiar and particular way, they inform and inspire one another in a truly human discourse.

Image: Julian Rachlin, Courtesy of 92Y 
For more information on 92Y concerts, performances, and talks, visit: