Tuesday, August 12, 2014

In Plein Air - Can Visual Art Influence Your Pursuit of Music?

Plein Air is an art term used to describe the act of painting outdoors “in plain air”.  (Plein rhymes with glen).  The gallery near where I live - Gallery Flux - is featuring a ‘Plein Air and Big Skies’ exhibit now through September 27, 2014.  

At the opening reception last week, I was impressed at the variety of different styles and techniques that fall under the plein air umbrella.  Many of the paintings depicted either the countryside or the beach/water, but the way each artist chose to interpret those scenes was unique.  
Gallery Flux Plein Air exhibit, August 2014
There were some in the Impressionist style, some had a Bob Ross kind of thing going on; some were very realistic, some were very abstract.  I suppose the common thread throughout all plein air work – besides the act of painting outside – is an attempt to capture the essence of light and convey the intangible. 

How does this relate back to music?

A painter might have a particular style that is reminiscent of artists that have come before her (much like the fiddler who plays in the style of her favorite oldtime master), but she is still painting her own paintings.  Additionally, the abstract artist whose plein air canvasses almost look like a Rothko still shares a kinship with the artist who paints his outdoors-inspired work in a very detailed way.

Not all of us have the composition skills or creative urge to write the next Mississippi Sawyer or Swallowtail Jig.  Many of us are content to work within the repertoires that have been handed down to us by previous generations.  That doesn't mean that you can't still express yourself through these tunes.  I think of these traditional, centuries-old melodies as palette to work from, but not strictly adhere to.

The most enduring fiddle tunes and folk songs are rubbery enough to respond well to endless interpretation.  If you are inspired to play this music in your kitchen or on your front porch, for your own enjoyment and in your own way, then you still share a kinship with the traditional musicians of old who played for exactly the same reasons, long before the days of session police and oldtime nazis!

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