2014 – oil on canvas, 150×200 cm / 59×79 in
“Music in the soul can be heard by the universe”. Lao Tzu
It seems fitting to use the quote of a Chinese philosopher for a painting featuring a performance at the Center for the Performing Arts, or Grand Theatre, in Beijing. In September 2014 I was invited there to show my sculptures, paintings and drawings related to music; first and foremost my Carmen and my Musicians. For this exhibition, I chose the title “Melody”, whereas for my exhibition in the National Museum of China in May I opted for “Harmony”.
This allows me to elaborate a little about the relationship between melody and harmony. In all antique cultures music was considered to be of divine origin. For Ludwig van Beethoven “music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy”. Music is a mirror of our life, it begins and ends in silence. The sound of music allows us to control the relationship between life and death, a power we don’t have in normal life.
The melody of a musical composition is a pleasing succession of arrangements of tones that the listener perceives as a single entity, whereas harmony is the background tone created by the different instruments. When there is harmony everything is in sync, in peace, something we can agree to in feeling or opinion.
Our auditory system is close to the part of our brain which deals with our feelings. This is the reason why acoustic stimuli have an immediate and deeper influence than optical ones. If we don’t like what we see we can shut our eyes or turn away, but with sounds there is no escape. Why is it then that in our today’s world we are so ignorant and careless when it comes to music? In all public places we are flooded with “entertainment music”, which we don’t listen to, and which we perceive as indistinct sound at best, and noise at worst.
Maybe this is a sign for a larger problem in our society, where extreme individuality goes against collective cooperation and harmony between people. If in an orchestra every instrument plays its melody in disregard of all others the result is “cacophony” instead of harmony. The same happens in society. When we immerse ourselves into music, we start a search for the higher relationship between man and the universe as explained by Lao Tzu. This is the eternal gift of music in our life.