Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Music of the Spheres

Today's topic is basically just an excuse to be able to post a quote I read that made me laugh. But the theme is...Pre-Raphaelites and music. The two seem to go hand in hand, whether we are speaking of the thematic use of instruments in Pre-Raphaelite art (see above), or the inspiration Pre-Raphaelite art can have for modern musicians.

ArtMagick is a wonderful source for looking up themes in Pre-Raphaelite art. Their theme pages can be used to look up all artworks with redheads, all artworks with harpists, etc. Thanks to them for making it easy to create the above collage of images.

Polar opposites in decorating taste, as already mentioned, Rossetti and William Morris appear to have been polar opposites in musical taste as well. William Morris had a fine appreciation for music.

"Morris had sung plain-chant at Oxford and was enthusiastic about English carols, then emerging from obscurity; in 1860 his version of 'French Noel' for four parts was published in a collection of Ancient Christmas Carols. The previous October, his birthday present to Janey was a two-volume edition of Popular Music of the Olden Time, containing tunes like Greensleeves." --William Morris and Red House

Rossetti on the other hand...

"[Rossetti] was singularly devoid of any musical taste, however. His house was decorated everywhere with curious old and esoteric musical instruments, but they were solely decorative, and Mr. Dunn never heard a note of music in it. Rossetti once went to hear a performance of "The Messiah" at the Crystal Palace when, he said, it seemed to him that everybody got up and shouted at him as loudly as possible! At another time he saw a performance of "Fidelio." The next morning he could give Mr. Dunn no clear idea of what it was all about. The only notion he had of it was that of a man who was taken out of prison, where he had been for a couple of days without food, and who, when a loaf of bread was given him, instead of eating it like any starving man would do, burst out into a long solo over it lasting for ten minutes--which he thought was obviously absurd!" --Recollections of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and His Circle by Henry Treffry Dunn.

Is it strange that both of these quotes, while completely opposing in taste, both make me like the individual more?


Margaret said...

I knew that Morris was more musical than Rossetti, but this is the first time I've seen that quote from Rossetti. I suppose it's quite appropriate that so many of Rossetti's paintings show women holding instruments--I guess he just saw them as part of the scenery! I definitely found Rossetti's truthful observations on music endearing and amusing. Thanks for sharing this!

Grace said...

I always thought that the women "playing" instruments in his paintings looked a little too distracted to have been doing a good job. Perhaps they were reflecting his own disinterest in the instruments themselves. :)