Pigeons in my socks

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Gardening. Natalia Goncharova. 1908.
Gardening. Natalia Goncharova. 1908.

If I have books sprawled all over the world- a monolith of cooking books, mountains of music, language text books, Literature, Art Compendiums, Fashion Magazines discarded on more than one continent- why do I find myself accruing more? Simple answer. The more I read, the more I realise how ignorant I am.

Sometimes I long for old books left on Asian soil. I’ll never forget that compendium of Italian arias by a Korean publisher, with both Korean and Italian libretti included. Or the minute bright yellow Ricordi La Traviata pocket  libretto edition purchased 6 years ago in Milan. I think it’s in some attic in east Germany. Abandoned, yet not forgotten. I guess that’s my urban footprint.

Every flight I’m smuggling books. I’m like those Chinese travellers caught in customs with pigeons down their socks. If it’s not my hefty Bärenreiter-Verlag Le Nozze di Figaro, it’s over 5 volumes of soprano arias that not even the weight of my shoe collection can eclipse tucked into a rucksack on my back where I hope the check in officers won’t see it to count it with my cabin baggage.

I’ve started sifting through which tomes return to Melbourne with next week. There’s already a heap of far too many, beside my bed. The monolithic height of this pile attests to my ongoing pathological optimism.

Earlier today I was flicking through a little square book acquired at the Tate Modern last month. Don’t let it’s small size deceive you as pithy. Nor it’s approachable title- 101 Things to Learn in Art School. I keep it on my writing desk and endeavor to read a page daily, but I find that 1 day is not enough for each 150 word entry. Artist and Professor Kit White provides 101 lessons “learned in the pursuit of art”.

In all honesty, I think White’s text is written with visual artists in mind. I’m taking him at his preface however that the lessons “pertain to almost everything we experience”. Each morning I play a philosophical game with this book, that keeps me entertained for hours. Lately I am fixated on how to apply theories of the visual arts to my work as a musician.


We are able to see things three dimensionally because of contrasts of value

The strength of light makes depth perception possible through the creation of shadow. As value contrasts diminish, so does our ability to see depth and the fullness of objects. At dawn or dusk, our depth perception diminishes. To enhance the illusion of depth and the dimensionality of objects, enhance the contrasts of value, especially between highlights and shadows (White, 2011).

As a thirteen year old, I voraciously buried myself in our 20 something volume set of Art History books (we had no T.V, so I was a bit weird).  One day I read about chiaroscuro (the device of creating dramatic contrasts between dark and light in an image where chiaro refers to light and scuro to dark) and I realised why my little drawings were so lack lustre. At this time I was interested in drawing Russian villagers in national dress- I liked the patterns on their clothing, so I tried to add chiaroscuro to their cheekbones, to their jowls. Later I gave up this occupation but I’ll always have a soft spot for Natalia Gonchareva.

Peasant Women with Rakes. Natalia Gonchareva. 1907.
Peasant Women with Rakes. Natalia Gonchareva. 1907.

Now as I conclude a month’s work on 3 arias for recording this Friday, I’m trying to give dimension. When Pamina exhales her tragic aria, Ach, ich fuhl’s, her sorrow must be balanced with chiaro, or it wont be perceived. If diminished contrast in tone results in lack of depth perception, I better be providing a contrast in tone. Ah, that’s the rub. I’t’s time to stop singing and start painting. Viva la Voce!

Music is the shorthand of emotion- Leo Tolstoy

White, K. (2011) 101 Things to Learn in Art School. The MIT Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts

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2 thoughts on “Pigeons in my socks

    carlosnegronmontoya said:
    July 7, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    You love painting indeed! what about this:
    This paintings seem to be photographs!

    Patricia said:
    July 8, 2013 at 1:16 am

    Bit too deep for me this time of day!! 8am. ox

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