A Musical Medley
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Mini-Music  Q & A


The Music of Emily Carr
Prof. Eleanor Stubley

  Questions and Answers:

1 - What factors helped you decide to embark on the film “marrying “ the paintings of Emily Carr and the music of Jean Coulthard?

As a choral conductor, I have a passion for words. When I read the diaries of Emily Carr, I was deeply struck by the musical words she used to convey her artistic aspirations. At the same time, when I looked at her paintings, I sensed the vibration, the resonance, the movement or feeling in that movement as being akin to something of what I felt in my own gestures as a conductor. While I had always thought of paintings as a silent, visual medium, I began more and more in my encounters with her work to sense something else at play. This led me to study in detail the works of the other Group of Seven artists, and later the works of the Scandinavian painters that had inspired them. Here, I discovered a marked difference in the ways in which they used "musical" or "sounding" words -- where the other Group of Seven artists saw in the Scandinavian paintings visual "motives" which they could manipulate as one might use in a musical composition known as theme and variations to reflect the Canadian landscape, the Scandinavian artists were motivated more directly by a language that was related to vibration, resonance, and echo -- and an experience of place in which all the senses were involved.

Then, I discovered the score for Jean Coulthard's The Pines of Emily Carr. This work had been inspired directly by passages from the diaries that focused on the senses and that favoured movement. And, where Carr used musical metaphors to describe her goals, Coulthard used visual metaphors. There seemed a natural affinity at moments between the way Carr's paintings moved, and Coulthard's music unfolded. At the same time, there were differences -- in music, for example, I had a new awareness of silence which I subsequently carried back to the paintings. In marrying the two art forms, consequently, I wanted to explore the play between the two, to explore how our senses heighten interact, deepen, affect, and enrich one another.

At the same time, looking at the paintings of Carr was also an important interpretative process for understanding the movement, colours, and textures of Coulthard's music -- how she moved and made sense of her musical space.

Lastly, as a scholar and as a musician, I am ultimately concerned with the notion of music as a transformative art, with the ways in which it touches and moves us. Often we explain this in terms of music's moods or what it expresses or states. But, it seems that the moment's that are most profound are those that leave us totally speechless, without words, . ..those moments that leave us feeling as if we have been transformed, somehow fundamentally changed. This is what was at the heart of Carr's "aerial perspective," what she described as the spiritual in nature -- a sense of being transformed while one was grounded. I have experienced these moments as a conductor often as a re-ordering of my sensual perspectives, a sense that I am seeing the ordinary in a new way, hearing what I once just saw, seeing once I just heard, etc. As a multi-dimensional medium, film allowed for the possibility of playing with these interactions, of bringing out the play of sight and sound, the moving and the moved, of experimenting with sight and sound to invoke the presence of the other senses . ...and, thus, ultimately, of conveying something of what it feels like when we have that transformative experience,-- what I described in my presentation as a body throbbed.


 

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