colours of music


Can music have colour? David Hockney thought so, as filmmaker Maryte Kavaliauskas shows in her profile for PBS’s American Masters, David Hockney: The Colors of Music.

Hockney designed sets for perfomances of some of the world’s great operas for more than 30 years, surreal backdrops of “purple forests, spacey blues, giant blocks and mad silhouettes.” Kavaliauskas’ film features excerpts from operas by Mozart, Stravinsky, Ravel and Puccini, and the result is a mesmerizing, occasionally dizzying scherzo of sound and colour.

Ironically, Hockney suffered from gradual but steadily deteriorating hearing loss late in life – a decline documented in the program. “I have always said how a hearing loss makes you aware of space, visually,” Hockney says in the film. “I became aware of that…I am aware.” And how. David Hockney: The Colors of Music is a feast for the eyes. (PBS – 10 p.m.)
– Alex Strachan, The Vancouver Sun, Page C6 (print only), July 18, 2007. (Links added by me.)

A TV program on my favourite subjects, visual art and opera, and a famous artist as well!

I read the above in our paper this morning and was happy to note that the program is available on one of our basic cable channels (unlike another art program). I rarely watch TV because I don’t often know when something really good is on. I detest skimming through pages of tiny uninformative print in the TV listings for over a hundred channels, most of which we don’t receive. So, I’m pleased when I see something like this written up to alert me. I’ll be watching it this evening, and hopefully will update later on as to what I think of it. Some readers may have seen this film already as it is a couple of years old. If not, check your local PBS listings (Canada and US).

Meanwhile, there are interesting links at David Hockney: The Colors of Music website for more information, such as about the people involved like Lithuanian born Maryte Kavaliauskas and the lovely photos of stage sets (above is the performance still from Die Frau Ohne Schatten.) This production reminds me a little of Visual Music.

UPDATE July 19th 10:00 am: I enjoyed the film very much and I’m glad I taped it to view again. It was very interesting to listen to Hockney talk about the challenges of working in a new area that is very 3D instead of his usual 2D and working with light, and how stage design is a collaboration with compromises. I loved the snippets of music and dress rehearsals, such as Erik Satie’s Parade. Hockney says music is heightened poetry and heightened experience. His comments on slowly going deaf were enlightening; he doesn’t like background music, only foreground music – when you just listen to it! Amazing how many times I nodded in agreement. Oh, there’s more but you will just have to see it for yourself!

July 18, 2007 in Films, Music, Other artists by Marja-Leena