Friday, May 13, 2011

The Languor of the Sun

The Roses of Heliogabalus by Lawrence Alma-Tadema

The emulation of and reference to historical themes and subjects is an important element within my personal aesthetic expressions. For me, Art don't manifest ex nihilo from creative genius, but is generated through the synthesizing of diverse influences into a unique expression. Among these influences is the historical dialectic of symbols and techniques.

The birth date of Gabriel Faure (born in 1845) brought this topic to mind as I was listening to his Pavane, Op.50, composed in 1887, nearly three centuries after the heyday of this dance style.

Now, listen to an original era pavane, John Dowland's Lachrimae Antiquae from 1604. (Note that Dowland's title is implying a historical reference.)

Let's jump foward to the generation that followed Faure to Maurice Ravel's Pavane pour une Infante Defunte (1899) and, using the Dowland composition as a baseline, consider differences of how this work expresses the basic form from that of Faure's. (BTW, Ravel was a student of Faure's at the Conservatoire de Paris at the time that this composed.)

Given the title, Ravel's Pavane has been associated with various images of Spanish Princesses. Whether or not the composer intended these connotations is irrelevant. His title and use of the antique dance form lead the reviewer to them.

Las Meninas by Diego Velazquez (1656)

Finally, let's look at John Adams' "Pavane: She's So Fine" from John's Book of Alleged Dances (1994). The title of this Post-Modernist work is a direct reference to Dowland's compositions, but how direct is the interpretation of the pavane?

Anyways, the point of this post is that we have a rich history of ideas, styles, symbols, and techniques from which to draw upon for our own aesthetic expressions. Use them.

Here are a bunch of Wikipedia links:

John Adams

Lawrence Alma-Tadema

John Dowland

Gabriel Faure

Maurice Ravel

Diego Velazquez


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