Ornamental Lightyears Tracery

I found myself interested again in Turner’s paintings again today.

Why? Color– the modulation of color-tones.  Color not as paint-color but as light-color.  Light-color that changes in an enviornment with respect either to movement or time.

Marian Zazeela, who not only is one of the most beautiful singers I have ever heard, but is also a criminally underappreciated artist.  She works in light, light filtered through additive synthesis.  In paint, colors added together darken.  In her work, in light, colors added together brighten– the possibility of pure white, all colors together.  Here is an image of her “Magenta Lights” in the former Dia Dream House.

Her light transforms with the day.  Like the tones of the raga cycle, with one modal scale for dawn another for dusk and another again for midnight (the midnight mode of Raga Malkauns is like a country blues scale, only more demonic).  It reminds me of the unending quality of Ben’s writing, each square touching another and continuing, as well as the frames of Stan Brakhage’s “Dante Quartet” that attends to color with the same devotion.

I began to think about this listening to the harmonium works of Hermann Nitsch, his attempt at a music of the spheres, and looking at images of star-formation in Hubble Telescope images.  The colors rendered by the photos are from light passing through gases.  It is similar to musical tone, which is perceived as vibrations through a gas (air) that moves in time in the inner ear.  The question I ask myself is, besides raga, what music could modulate so slowly and so beautifully its timbres so as to attain this kind of light-movement.


4 Responses to “Ornamental Lightyears Tracery”

  1. 1 Luckycloud
    April 6, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    What follows is a random collection of comments (some more nonsensical than others….)

    Not to take too much wind out of your sails (and it doesn’t really change the nature or thrust of your reflection) but isn’t the color in these space photos generally added in by artists after the photo has been taken?

    In response to your question: why not certain strains of ambient music, which is really not much more than spatially oriented minimalism?

    Or, maybe I’m misunderstanding what you mean by raga, but I take it to mean the specific development of timbre in time.

    Or are you more concerned with the color of the raga in space? Because if you think of it in terms of space, as well, then the question opens itself up a bit.

    Also, if the question was rhetorical, feel free to ignore all this.

  2. 2 devavivarma
    April 6, 2010 at 10:39 pm


    if you’re right about the space photos, egg on my face, maybe Jim knows if the color comes from Hubble or artists?

    it depends I guess on which strains of ambient music you’re talking about– can you give me an example? I’m having trouble with “spatially oriented minimalism”, too. I find minimalism a tricky term, and isn’t all sound spatial. 2 examples of more-or-less traditional minimalism come to mind as spatial. Rhys Chatham’s pieces in an obvious way, where the harmonics of the guitars clang up the space (not just guitar orchestras) and Charlemagne Palestine– where the repeated sustained notes from a justly tuned piano decay in different tempos depending on the wavelength of the overtones.

    By raga, I mean the artform of vocal music coming from N. India. So: it changes in time in that the modes, the different scales of the raga, and there are 10 major ones, are used in relation to different times of day. Morning ragas, afternoon ragas, evening ragas, midnight ragas, all have a different sound and scale, a different feeling.

    Exactly, the color of raga in space. Robbie Basho had charts of his guitar tunings all related to their specific colors and feels. Before the piano got re-tuned in equal temperment, each of the different keys, C# F# G A, had a specific feeling, and often color, they all sounded different.

    Did this help?

  3. 3 johuat
    April 6, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    The color in that picture (the so called “Pillars of Creation” in the Eagle nebula) is false in that they used the frequencies of light emitted by three different elements as a basis for an RGB colorization (or so says wikipedia.) Nearly all the spectacular images from the Hubble or other telescopes are false-color in this way, although the scientists who process them usually try to be reasonable about how they do it.

  4. 4 Luckycloud
    April 14, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    You’re right that all minimalism is spatially oriented. A better way to put ambient music, then, would be environmentally oriented. But even that is a slippery and not particularly useful distinction to make, since to make the spatial presence of a sound available to the listener is also to make it continuous with the environment.

    What I meant by spatially oriented, now that I think of it, is the sort of music making use of sustained tones that offer so little change in time that they can only be meaningfully experienced spatially, i.e. by moving around the space in which it resounds. Then again, the same thing experienced in two different moments will necessarily be different, too.

    What a can of worms.

    On ambient music: Perhaps an even better way to put it is as technologically aided minimalism. Phonographically extracted from the performer and from conscious listening. By way of example–Ubuweb wrote this about the first performance of Furniture Music:

    “In the midst of an art opening at a Paris gallery in 1902, Ambient music was born. Erik Satie and his cronies, after begging everyone in the gallery to ignore them, broke out into what they called Furniture Music–that is, background music–music as wallpaper, music to be purposely not listened to. The patrons of the gallery, thrilled to see musicians performing in their midst, ceased talking and politely watched, despite Satie’s frantic efforts to get them to pay no attention.”

    That is, ambient music was impossible before the phonograph. What I meant to assert (in answering your question about what other music changes so slowly as to imitate light)is that ambient music can be read as the unconscious, sensory coloring of the environment. Something akin to the quality of ambient light, which changes the way we feel and think, but which we also often fail to notice consciously.

    So the distinction I SHOULD HAVE made was between conscious listening and unconscious sensation, not between space/time. It proves to be more meaningful, I think.

    I hope that made sense.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

April 2010
« Mar   May »

%d bloggers like this: