Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Art in Music -- Realistically Speaking

This is the last in my series about "Art in Music" and it's the most real (pun intended!) Today's theme is "Realism," where the songs in question explore realistic life scenarios and dually reference art, art history, or art-making.

Bob Dylan art painting
Bob Dylan -- When I Paint My Masterpiece
Here, in one of Dylan's songs with multiple meanings, he talks of a tired past and a hopeful future, saying, "Someday, everything's gonna be smooth like a rhapsody, When I paint my masterpiece." Though also a visual artist with several notable gallery exhibitions, Dylan is not known for his visual artworks; however, his knowledge of art history comes into his music as he mentions in this song that he has a date with Botticelli's niece -- something which is of course impossible, because the great master Botticelli had been dead for several hundred years before Dylan was even born.

Depressing Artist story song
M. Ward -- Story of an Artist (originally written by Daniel Johnston)
The realism expressed in this song is all-too-often the true experience of the struggle of many visual artists. "Listen up, I'll tell you a story about an artist growing old. Some will try for fame and glory, others aren't so bold," opens the song about an artist whose family and friends have no faith in his/her artistic career or merit.
"Friends and family saying, 'Hey, go get a job'" "We don't really like what you do, we don't think anyone ever will." Depressing? Very. However, check out the beautiful cinematography and interpretation of the song in this YouTube video>>

Citizen Cope -- Pablo Picasso
Mixing a little hip-hop, a little dj remix, and a little street grunge -- this song is about a deranged man who has fallen in love with a woman painted in a public mural. Clarence Greenwood, the musician behind the Citizen Cope name, is a genius when it comes to putting himself in others shoes and then writing about it. 

Basquiat art song
Cowboy Junkies -- My Little Basquiat
How many times have you watched a child happily drawing or painting, lost in his/her own world and imagined the works of Jean-Michel Basquiat? Most of us have, and this song speaks to the comparison as the singer watches her son in the same situation. Later we hear of tales not so sweet, but certainyl true to human experience.

Counting Crows -- When I dream of Michelangelo
A personal song about life, questions, dreams, heartbreak, and more. This melodramatic ballad mentions often of looking at the masterpiece of an artwork on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and using it as a metaphor in understanding life. Very beautiful composition and poetic lyrics.

Patty Larkin -- Inside Your Painting
While Patty goes about naming specific paint colors such as cadmium yellow, vermilion, and sienna, she also sings of an odd surrealistic dream of someone in a painting taking away the pain of the artist. A hopeful fantasy of what dreams come true in an artwork, this song reaches out to anyone who's ever gotten lost in art.

Read past posts for more "Art in Music"...

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)