Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Art in Music -- Biographical Narratives of Van Gogh, Pollock, Gauguin in Song

Biographical writings tell the truth like it is factually, while narrative songs tell the truth like it is emotionally. The songs for today's theme of art in music share the biographies of three famous painters with tragic early deaths.

Starry Night Song
Don McLean  -- Starry Starry Night
This beautiful, but sad, ballad about the artist's fate explores the too-frequent phenomena of post-humous fame. "They would not listen, they did not know how. Perhaps they'll listen now." This song is one of my all-time favorites, regardless of it's inclusion of art, the composition is gorgeously melodic and the lyrics are dramatically moving.

Art rock Band
Red Crayola -- A Portrait Of VI Lenin In The Style Of Jackson Pollock, Part 1
The re-telling of Pollock's life as told by this avant-garde rock band focuses a little more on his artistic style than his biography, but still this seemed the best category for this song. The group changed their name to "Red Krayola" soon after this song, but neither name brought them much fame. This rare and hard to find song from the band's early days is an obvious ode to the group's art school influence.

Gauguin art music
Jimmy Webb -- Paul Gauguin on the South Seas
A piano and voice narrative about the artist's life, this musician mellowly describes the painful struggles that caused the artist to escape to the French Polynesian islands where he lived the remainder of his days. The bitter disenchantment Gauguin experienced with his close friends and relatives is sharply contrasted by his free-spirited tropical life in "paradise."

Stay tuned for more "Art in Music" posts...

In researching the musings of various musicians about the topic of visual art, I found songs including mentions of art are somewhat limited in quantity, yet profoundly inspiring and memorable. I chose to sort my findings according to a few common themes and then present a review of each group on the following schedule:
  • ODES (Part 1) to specific artworks, artists, or art movements -- June 8 (4 songs)
  • LOVE songs, some hopeful and others confused, referencing art -- July 6 (6 songs)
  • HUMOROUS songs about art or specific artists -- August 3 (5 songs)
  • BIOGRAPHIES of specific artists' lives -- September 7 (3 songs)
  • ODES (Part 2) to specific artworks, artists, or art movements -- October 5 (4 songs)
  • BALLADS of heartbreak, using art as a metaphor -- November 2 (3 songs)
  • REALISTIC narrations of pain, hope, struggle, and life, presented with references to art -- December 7 (5 songs)