Tone Paintings  

rm_harshawj 52M
761 posts
1/27/2006 4:45 pm

Last Read:
3/5/2006 9:27 pm

Tone Paintings

One of the things I like to do is take abstract music, such as classical, and paint a tone picture in my mind. One of the best examples of this is “The Sorcerers Apprentice” by Dukas, as portrayed in Fantasia. In fact the whole premise of Fantasia is to take classical music and give it visual form. In this Fantasia succeeds brilliantly and is the reason it is a classic Walt Disney movie that will never go out of style and be with us always.

But I was listening to one of my other favorite pieces and started to paint the scene in my head. The piece is the Egmont Overture, by Ludwig Von Beethoven (op. 84). For me the scene plays out as follows…

We start with an eighteenth century king sitting on his thrown, pontificating to the people how his kingdom is to be run. The King is portrayed by the strong strings and sharper attack on the notes. As the king continues to rule his queen steps in and makes a suggestions. She is portrayed by the softer woodwinds and the more mellow strains of the piece. Immediately the king is not happy to hear any of this and continues his harsher ways. The two get into a brooding conversation and the exchanges are marked by the three bars sets back and forth. Eventually the two are yelling and shouting over each other as they work out the more humane way to rule the kingdom. As the shouts and arguing mount there is a happy agreement and the two rejoice in the happy medium they have found.

These tone paintings are one of the reasons I like Beethoven so much and always will. He does not come out and state that he is painting a picture, but there always seems to be one there. I am currently trying to figure out if my favorite piece by him (the allegretto in the 7th symphony, (that’s the second movement, an absolute masterpiece of theme and variation and the center section with the running pizzicato triplets in the background blows me away)) is also a tone painting or just abstract. It certainly moves me and the more I listen to it the more I think there is an underlying picture, complex though it may be.

Other good composers for this sort of tone painting are Mussorgsky (Pictures at an Exhibition), Stravinsky, Anderson (all his pieces are tone paintings) and Holst. There are others, but these are the ones I like best.

Thought I would share with you all.

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