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Tell Me a Story

toccata-and-fugue-in-d-minor-160x120I recently did a show for Relevant Tones called Visual Aids in which we asked artists to suggest imagery for a variety of different pieces.  In some cases we asked multiple artists to suggest imagery for the same piece.  I got this idea long ago after many years of producing my Sound of Silent Film Festival and noticing that composers could write any kind of avant garde idea they wanted, as long as there was visual imagery accompanying the music.

Without the imagery people would often complain that the piece was atonal, thorny, unlistenable, etc.  The usual words people use.  But when paired with imagery suddenly the music was evocative and powerful.  Fast forward years later and I now have a weekly radio show.  What if we play “difficult” music but ask artists to suggest imagery for people?

Well, the show airs today so we’ll see if it’s successful or not but the experiment itself was fascinating.  Each artist had such detailed imagery, in almost every case accompanied by a narrative storyline that was incredibly creative and rich.  It was interesting to me that in every case the narrative was integral to the visual imagery.  Not one artist just suggested random images, instead the images were almost cinematic in how they served to tell the story.

It occurred to me that this is the main thing that people want from art, and perhaps from life in general: to be told a story.  If there is no story accompanying a painting, most people will make up one to go with it. We are narrative creatures by nature, a byproduct I’m sure of the causal nature of how we think.  I’ve always told composition students that to be successful their music must communicate something to the listener.

But what I would say now is that it must tell a story of some kind.

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