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How would one create music based on the principles of Cubism? (e.g., 20th century painters: Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger)

The basic definition of Cubism calls for the use of multiple geometric planes juxtaposed, or multiple perspectives of the same subject woven together.

While this may appear to seek opinions only, I assure you I am looking for the facts. I believe that there is a solid connection between sound and image, and those familiar with the geometry of space as well as the geometry of time will be of the most assistance.

For instance, could one consider fugue form historically a pointer to Cubism (as in modulating a fragment into several keys)?

Could one consider Polymodal Chromaticism as per Béla Bartók the musical equivalent of early Cubism? Incidentally Picasso and Bartok were both born in 1881. Is there a personal connection of these two? So far I can not find one.

Also consider Cubism having several variants as there are practitioners: Analytical, Synthetic, Constructivism, Futurism, and Tubism (Léger)

How would you as a composer interpret Cubism as a musical form? What would it sound like?

  • this sounds like a fascinating premise for a thesis or dissertation, but I don't know if you'll be able to find the information you're looking for here. Unlike the vote to close because "topic is too broad" I actually think the sources you're looking for need to come from someone who is most likely "too specialized" to be on this site. I'll say though that Stravinsky is often paired with Cubism through his use of tableaux in his compositions. Bartok is more associated with secret programs and numerology - I have never heard him associated with Cubism. – jjmusicnotes Sep 12 '13 at 3:57
  • Thank you @jjmusicnotes, your pointer to Stravinsky is a real gem, certainly appreciated. I will follow up with this lead. – filzilla Sep 12 '13 at 19:59
  • @filzilla, I love this question! I was about to put some of my own thoughts into an answer, so I Googled "cubism composer" to help me get my thoughts organised, and I quickly arrived at your LinkedIn discussion about this subject! Wow, that is a treasure trove of information! I reckon most of what I was going to say is already posted there, I'll have a good read through and in the unlikely event that my thoughts aren't already covered there, I'll post something here. It would be great if you could supply a link to your LinkedIn discussion, for any other interested people reading this post. – Bob Broadley Jun 20 '14 at 22:13
  • @BobBroadley, Thank you very much Bob, I am very honored by your kind words. Here is the link to the LinkedIn discussion: linkedin.com/groups/… – filzilla Jun 20 '14 at 23:18
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I think the Semester IV of this online course could be relevant : http://academic.udayton.edu/PhillipMagnuson/soundpatterns/

You could ask yourself if the Cubism maintains/modifies/completely changes the different aspects of music :

  • Tonality
  • Vocabulary
  • Texture
  • Sonority
  • Time

Edit: As a complement, you can also read about the friendship between Georges Braque and Erik Satie, for instance : http://blog.phillipscollection.org/2013/07/22/table-story-friendship-georges-braque-erik-satie/ Braque loved and played music, and bought his friend's piano when he died. A lot of his early paintings feature music instruments, score sheets...

  • +1 for sure for your excellent research, Prof. Phillip Magnuson makes some very useful connections between music and art movements of the 20th century. Thank you for that link. – filzilla Sep 12 '13 at 20:06
  • FYI I have sent an email to Prof. Magnuson with this question too. – filzilla Sep 12 '13 at 20:39
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    @filzilla: If you get a reply with an answer, please encourage P Magnuson to post his answer here, or post it here yourself with his consent. – Ulf Åkerstedt Sep 17 '13 at 22:16
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    No reply so far, but I will keep you posted should one come my way. – filzilla Sep 20 '13 at 18:36
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I certainly cannot vouch for a historical connection between Cubism and music, but I have been experimenting with just this thing for a couple of years now. I specialize in playing Baroque and Classical (up through Beethoven) and I find Cubism to be very inspiring when interpreting the music. The element of Cubism I find the most interesting is how the artist allows the viewer to piece the image together. Thus, the end result is different for each viewer. I believe Cubist art compliments the intelligence of the viewer by allowing them to find the common elements, the connections for themselves. It trusts the viewer's own conclusions. Baroque lends itself to cubist interpretation firstly by being so strongly vertical in its harmonies. Based on the literature of the period, it is altogether fitting to give baroque a free interpretation, once the conventions of the form are appreciated. Classical music lends itself to judicious fragmentation because of the rapid shift in themes and sub-themes (particularly in Haydn). I find it particularly interesting that Haydn is credited for refining the unity of the sonata form and yet his sonatas, even within movements, make rapid shifts in texture and theme. I cannot say that I have worked out a true philosophy for this but I find that if I look at Cubist art, then practice jazz riffs, then tackle Mozart or Haydn or Bach, I find a degree of liberation in interpretation - something akin to a cinematic morphing of theme. I hope to 'compliment' the listener, as they find the underlying cohesiveness of the performance.

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I suspect that you are capable of linking just about ANY compositional technique to Cubism! But the connection is conceptual rather than concrete.

However 'multiple perspectives of the same subject woven together' could be explored. It may just lead to 'thematic development', which most music styles do. Try doing it backwards. Write the end of your piece first then deconstruct it. Would this echo Cubism at more than a wordplay level? Maybe, maybe not. But it might get you composing.

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