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Visual Arts

Visual art influences in Australian music

In depicting landscape, or the tightly focused visual imagery of Japanese poetry, much Australian music is ekphrastic, with the visual finding a formal equivalent in music: the Sculthorpian schema of drone, slow harmonic rhythm and locally busy foreground, for instance, has its analogue in the landscapes of Fred Williams.

Clive Douglas and James Penberthy were inspired by European frescos and Japanese panels; Nigel Butterley translates mosaic, sculpture, painting and stained glass in several works, and at a 1967 Prom concert produced a piece to accompany a painting, created in real time, by John Peart. Roger Smalley has composed works in response to the work of several artists. Many of David Lumsdaine’s works take the symmetries of the mandala as their inspiration; Asian media as different as ink drawing and ice carving have left their mark. Non-figurative art is of course most easily represented in sound, like Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles in pieces by Andrew Ford and Russell Gilmour, or the work of various Aboriginal artists in the music of Georges Lentz. Sydney-based vocal ensemble The Song Company has successfully explored relationships between music and visual arts in a number of programs.

Representative Works

  Work Notes
Mountain village in a clearing mist (1973) by Ross Edwardsreflects a 13th-century Zen drawing by Yu-Chien.
Digital sheet music sample Manhattan epiphanies (1999) by Andrew Forda work for strings, Manhattan Epiphanies makes striking sound pictures based on Rothko, Pollock and others.
Beggars and angels (1999) by Brett Deanthis work for orchestra responds to paintings by Heather Betts and sculptures by Trak Wendisch.
Ascension and descend (2001) by Mary Finstererwas inspired by a series of photographs of stairs by Dean Golja.
Falling man, dancing man, op. 68 (2005) by Andrew Schultz) is an organ concerto that meditates on the ‘falling man’ photo of September 11 and the ‘dancing man’ in Martin Place at the end of World War II.
Menin Gate (2005) by Helen Giffordis a solo piano work inspired by the painting 'Menin Gate at Midnight' by Will Longstaff
 Gauguin (2000) by Smetanin, Michaelthis composer’s second opera, to Alison Croggon’s libretto, about the post impressionist painter.

Broader categories of Visual Arts