Sight And Sound Harmonize At Rivier U.
by Greg Morell
When music and the visual arts conspire, a unique synthesis is explored. An interesting experiment opened on February 8 at a small liberal arts college in Nashua, New Hampshire. The Rivier University Art Gallery curators decided to delve into the mystique of Maurice Ravel’s interpretation of Modest Mussorgsky’s musical suite “Pictures at an Exhibition.” Their goal was to find and present a series of single images that conjured the moods of the music.
As patrons listen to the 30-minute musical suite — visitors equipped with earphones can use their own cellphones to access the program or use the listening devices provided by the staff — they stroll through 11 visual stations. Each station features a masterwork painting that correlates to the 11 movements of the musical piece. The music runs continuously as patrons are directed to the visual arts station corresponding to the musical movement.
After coming up with the idea of using Mussorgsky’s music, curators Sr. Theresa Couture and Sr. Marie Couture loitered in the halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), seeking paintings that epitomized the spirit of each of the 11 movements of “Pictures at an Exhibition.” As you can imagine, this was a very subjective process. In the end, they chose pieces by Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Andrew Wyeth, Alice Neel, Paul Klee and Lyonel Feininger.
The final station of the tour concludes with not one, but four paintings by the German-American painter Lyonel Feininger, a leading exponent of Expressionism known for his abstract architectural depictions. Curiously, he was also a pianist and composer.