“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” said somebody, once. In fact, this perennial quote has been voiced by and attributed to so many, that no one can quite recall who first said it. Nor does there seem to be an individual out there vehemently brandishing the evidence with which to stake their claim on it. As such, it continues to pop up like toast. Toast arguing against writing’s ability to capture the essence of music. Perhaps the true originator of the dual slight on writing and architecture as art forms capable of matching others is happy to lie low. As a lover of writing, and music, who is also open to seeing choreography inspired by those hulking great feats of design and construction we call buildings, I could understand why they might.
Writing is art. Music is art. Dance is art. Architecture is art.
It is true that music is an intensely evocative medium, and that taste naturally plays a part in the perceived hierarchy of art forms. It is also true that the particular qualities inherent in each of these forms cannot be faithfully replicated by the other. But, what I find exciting is when they speak to one another, when a symbiosis occurs between them.
The most obvious example is found in the relationship between music and dance, and what those two art forms coming together can create. Individually, they are evocative and beautiful. Combined, they invoke something new and no less real for its intangibility – something that is more than the sum of their parts.
I’ve no doubt that, were I to see some beautiful choreography set against the backdrop of, entwined with, mirroring the sweeping grace of a stunning piece of architecture – or positioning itself at odds with it – it would move me. I would want to understand, to be permitted entry to its intricacies and complexities, to interpret and make sense of the work and to enjoy the challenge of it while simultaneously allowing myself to be swept away by its aesthetic and visual beauty.
By the same token, while the individual merits of the art forms of writing and music deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated, it cannot be said that invoking the former to capture the latter is an exercise in futility. As with the combination of dance and music, an evocative and creative invocation on the part of the writer can succeed in creating something new, something reliant on, and arising as a result of both art forms combining.
It was through studying film, literature, drama and television at BA and then MA level that I discovered and learned to appreciate the power and potential of artistic forms and media coming together to inspire the creation of new art. A recent writing class focussed in particular on generating stories from images.
The intersection between different media, and what can arise as a result of it, is something I am currently experimenting with and exploring with my own work, which relies on a combination of artistic forms to create something new and discrete as a consequence of their fusion.
In writing the following story, The Duet, I took my inspiration from three art forms; painting (Schubert at the Piano, by Gustav Klimt (1899)), music, (Schubert’s Fantasia in F Minor (1828)), and the short story.
As I continue to explore, write and work at this intersection of various forms of art, I hope you will enjoy reading this story; a product of what it is to combine and use different forms for inspiration, and to engage in the art of writing about music.