Music in Art: International Journal for Music Iconography XLVI (2021)


Photography and Music. Guest Editor: Goffredo Plastino


Alan John Ainsworth (Edinburgh), Photography and the Ecology of Jazz.

The distinguished photographer Herb Snitzer once made a plea for images of jazz to move away from repetitive performance shots of “the guy playing the horn”. Meeting Snitzer’s challenge, this article proposes that a broader and more inclusive approach might result from viewing jazz photography as a performative practice set within a wider context: the ecology of jazz. The idea of an ecology of music derives from William Kay Archer’s exploratory essay of 1964. Drawing on recent elaborations of the concept of ecology in the human sciences as well as ideas about spatial construction, I argue that interactionist theories of social worlds, relationships and the embodied behavioral characteristics adds sociological richness to the ecology concept. I move on to argue that jazz photography can thus be considered in terms of the “perceptual ecologies” of music—framed systems of inter-related and inter-dependent parts whose internal relationships, and those of the system to its surrounding environment, are co-dependent and are specific to the music. The second part of the article explores these ideas in three case studies and ends with a detailed analysis of a 1937 photograph of Cab Calloway conducting his orchestra at the Cotton Club.

Natalia Bieletto-Bueno (Universidad Mayor, Chile), Street Musicians in Early Mexican Photography and the Making of the Urban Experience.

During the eighteenth century visual representations of street musicians found in casta and costumbrist painting in Mexican pictorial art began to be connected first with ideas of the “popular” and then, with the peripheral to society, the unusual or the eccentric, that is: the “abnormal”. As a result, associations with vagrancy, depletion and mendicity marked the social imaginaries of street musicians as characters at the margins of legitimate culture. Early Mexican photography showed the traces of this influences. However, in the 1950s photograph changed from being a technology that claimed to objectively register everyday life and turned into an artistic expression, giving impulse to author photograph and the genre known as photo essay. A case in point are the photos of Ignacio “Nacho” López Bocanegra, whose visual constructions tend to draw attention to the situation rather than to the person in the image. It is through such assemblages that López imbues the photographs with a greater visual narrative in which the street musicians appear as characters in a scene rather than just as objects within a visual composition. López’s focus on everyday life contributes to forge an image of musicians not as ethnic curiosities, but rather as inhabitants of a city and thus as agents in urban life. The interconnection of two urban-based jobs: the street musician and the photographer of everyday urban life, enlarges knowledge on the relationship between musicians, photographers, and the urban experience, as well as on the relationship between the urban public space and the intersubjective formation of notions of civilization and citizenship.

Michael Broyles (Florida State Universty), Planes, Perspectives, and Tonalities: Charles Ives’s and Lee Friedlander’s Attack on the Renaissance.

Linear perspective and tonality parallel each other historically and functionally: Each convention arose at roughly the same time, the Renaissance, and each became an underlying organizational principle of its respective art. Each provides a corresponding sense of direction and dynamism to the art work.
At the end of the nineteenth century Charles Ives began stacking two separate tonalities, creating early examples of polytonality. Other composers followed. This particular attack on unitary tonality differed markedly from Schoenberg’s atonality, which was an extension of Romantic chromaticism.
While cubists and other abstract painters overturned linear perspective in the early twentieth century, photography, because of the realistic tendency imposed by the lens, took longer. In the 1960s and 1970s Lee Friedlander’s photographs parallel Ives’s approach by creating several planes brought about by interruptions, intersections, reflections and other methods. These images combine multiple perspectives, although the image remains a single entity, not a collage.
Together Ives and Friedlander embody the twentieth-century breakdown of Western linearity. Each artist speaks to the upending of conventions that had dominated Western arts for the past five centuries. Their work also underscores how the aural and visual conjoin. With Ives & Friedlander as exemplars we see the end of the Renaissance.

Pierangelo Castagneto (American University in Bulgaria), The Accordionists on the Ocean: The Musical Journey of the Pezzolo Brothers.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, six brothers left an economic depressed region in the northwestern part of Italy in search of better life opportunity. For them America, as for millions of other European emigrants, represented the Promised Land. They settled in the San Francisco Bay Area and after a definitely not easy stint as shoemakers, thanks to music the six Pezzolo brothers were able to give a sensational turn to their lives. Actually the passion for playing the accordion they had in common became the key for their success. Starting in the 1920s, the Pezzolo brothers contributed in a relevant way to initiate the Golden Age of Accordion in San Francisco, popularizing an instrument which in those days was rapidly gaining the favor of the American public. The successful career of Caesar, Theodore, Gene, Ralph, John, and Silvio and their ability to operate at different levels into the music field as recording artists, performers, teachers, and musical entrepreneurs is documented by a significant photographic material. Images of their instruments, of the school of music established in San Francisco, or of their birthplace back in Italy, Favale di Malvaro, a small village where the Pezzolo made return several times; images through which it becomes possible to piece together chapters of a story, to some extent a paradigmatic one, of a transnational experience between the two sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Benjamin Cawthra (California State University, Fullerton), Curating the Jazz Image: Lee Tanner’s Photographic Art World.

Photographer and curator Lee Tanner created a distinctive archive of jazz performance photographs from the 1950s to the 1970s when not working full-time as an accomplished metals scientist. His use of available light and closeups, photographed mostly in the clubs of his native Boston, were a hallmark of his work. But it was as a curator in his retirement from the 1980s to 2005 in California that he made perhaps his most important contribution to the visual documentation of the music. Beginning with an informal gathering of images for saxophonist and friend Zoot Sims’ memorial, Tanner created The Jazz Image for the licensing of his own work but also for the curation of a series of exhibitions in the United States. These brought striking images made by a loose network of subgenre photographers to the attention of jazz and fine arts audiences. Tanner’s curation of JazzTimes magazine’s Indelible Images galleries in the 1990s brought even wider attention to this cohort, an art world he had essentially called into being. His book The Jazz Image: Masters of Jazz Photography (2005) revealed stylistic change over time in the photography of jazz while highlighting the work of the genre’s most important practitioners.

Lindsey Macchiarella (University of Texas at El Paso), Reich and Gursky: Parallel Minimalist and Post-Minimalist Narratives in Music and Photography.

Both Reich and Gursky have traced parallel aesthetic paths in their respective fields of music and photography, from the inherited conventions of their predecessors at the origins of minimalism, to their mature style in the post-minimalist aesthetic. Early minimalist musical works, such as LaMonte Young’s Composition 1960 #7 and Trio for Strings, scrutinize miniscule amounts of sonic material for prolonged stretches of time, magnifying an otherwise banal sound-world and re-framing it as an immersive, artistic experience. Similarly, Bernd and Hilla Becher’s school of photographic objectivity glorified the systematic experience by serializing overlooked images; through repetition, they sought to create a visual typology of a concept, an ur-bilder. Reich and Gursky eventually abandoned the impersonal procedures of these predecessors in favor of approaches that incorporated the mechanical procedures of the first minimalists to enhance the drama of their own works, which are strikingly similar, though from radically different mediums. Both artists use a more subjective, intuitive, and aesthetically-oriented style that incorporates process as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself.

Heather Pinson (Robert Morris University), The Consumable Aesthetic: A Decade of Visualizing Jazz.

According to recent Nielsen reports, the jazz community deeply loves the music but does not buy recordings. While this is not new information, what is surprising is that in 2019, jazz consumerism of physical album sales, digital track and streaming equivalent albums decreased to an all-time low at one percent, tying with classical music and children’s music as the least-consumed music in the U.S. Obviously, jazz record and streaming sales do not reflect the entirety of its consumption, especially when pirating and illegal downloading is the norm not to mention the challenge of tracking music sales during a global pandemic. However, even as the listenership of jazz continues to drop, the use of jazz in visual culture such as movies, photographs, and advertisements remained consistently high during the past ten years. Thus, it begs the question: how does jazz continue to be a featured subject in movies, photography, digital reproductions, etc… when jazz itself contains such a disproportionately small listening audience?
This article discusses some possible answers. Perhaps the visual trope of jazz, as it was envisaged during the 1940s and 1950s, continues in the proliferation of jazz as a sociocultural construct and the utilization of jazz as promotional material that markets specific products thought to exemplify characteristics found in jazz. Music links masses of people to certain visual, social, ideological, political, or musical attributes that each audience member believes to find in the music or musicians. We adhere to the style of music that fits our personalities and upbringing, and we “buy” into the sounds of our favorite artists. Also, the proliferation, dissemination, and concurrently, digitization of photography through the Internet has accelerated jazz’s broad appeal. The photograph can be quickly consumed to an audience that is unfamiliar with the musical genre itself; meaning, one does not have to understand jazz to gain the gist of it through a photograph. Thus, the characteristics of the music are transformed visually as a selling point for cultural appropriation. By broadly examining the visual representation of jazz over a specific time period from 2010 to 2020, this article presents jazz photography as that which simultaneously aids in the distribution of jazz recordings (not sold in great amounts) while appropriating jazz as that which is consumable (used in many aspects of pop culture). Finally, this article recounts the legacies of jazz photographers themselves and explores the effects their photography has had as a visual trope for the mainstream audience and for the individualized jazz community.

Goffredo Plastino (Newcastle University), Clouds: Notes on Photography and Music.

Throughout its history, photography has had a constant relationship with sound and music. Photography and music have a vocabulary in common. Photography, in parallel and in conjunction with recordings, print, film, radio, and television, has historically contributed to the identification, circulation, and establishment of all kinds of mass-mediated music. Photographers and photography scholars have elaborated acute reflections on the multiple relationships between photography and music; recent studies have highlighted aesthetic and conceptual similarities in the work of photographers and composers. In musicology, however, thinking on the relationships between photography and music is lacking overall. This essay—through the analysis of images by Enzo Sellerio, Elliott Landy, Luigi Ghirri, and Werner Bischof, among others—considers the role of photographs in ethnomusicological research, jazz, popular music, album covers, and how photographers have conceptualized music theorethically and visually.

Goffredo Plastino (Newcastle University), Camera Sounds: Photographers and Street Musicians.

A panorama of sixteen photographs of street musicians in various European locations, spanning from the 1850s to the late 1960s, which documents the encounters between street musicians and photographers. From these photographs one can make assumptions about the motivations the photographers had in taking these pictures, and the kind of encounters that were occurring between them and the musicians.
The stereograph by Adolphe Block (1829–1915), active in Paris from 1863, shows a family of street musicians. Another French photographer, Alphonse (Jean Baptiste) Bernoud (1820–1889), was active in Naples, where he captured two street performers in his studio. The Swiss photographer Giorgio Conrad (1826–1889)—who moved to Naples in 1850 and devoted himself to genre scenes—in his studio took a picture of a zampognaro with a set of puppets. The portrait photographer Baltasar Cue Fernández (1856–1918), who was active in Llanes in Asturias from 1891 through 1894, produced a series of portraits of itinerant musicians, including the well-known blind violinist Dom Adolfito (born in 1841 in Santiago da Compostela). Another Parisian photographer, Charles Nègre (1802–1880), took in 1853 photographs of an Italian pifferari group and a barrel organ musician carrying his instrument over his shoulder. The French photographer Camille Silvy (1834–1910) worked in London from 1859 to 1867, and in 1860 created the three-image Series of the Studies on Light; the first shot was the Brouillard (Les Petits savoyards), which showed two boys with their hurdy-gurdies. The Scottish photographer John Thompson (1837–1921) collaborated with the journalist Adolphe Smith on the book Street Life in London (1877), which has one chapter dedicated to Italian street musicians. The well-known photographer Eugène Atget (1857–1927) produced the series Paris pittoresque, which includes the joueur d’orgue, a man with his barrel organ.
Five photographs are included from the twentieth century. A well-known picture by the Hungarian photographer André Kertész (1894–1985) shows a blind violinist crossing the road in Abony (1921), the German photographer August Sander (1876–1964) is represented by his Hofmusikanten (1928), the American Walker Evans (1903–1975) captured an image of two blind musicians from the streets of Chicago (1941), the French Robert Doisneau shows Les bouchers mélomanes (Paris, 1953), and the Czech photographer Josef Koudelka (b.1938) took a picture of Moravian Roma musicians in 1966.


Lelli e Masotti (Milan), Milan, Teatro Lirico, December 2, 1977: John Cage / Empty Words.

A “four hands—four eyes” photo reportage of a classic performance by John Cage, which soon turned into a melee, a real on-stage fight between the imperturbable composer and the audience: an historical event in 1970s Italy.

Lelli e Masotti (Milan), Note sparse / Scattered notes, 1978–2021.

A sequence of photographs deeply infused with sound to show itself as musical, images to be considered musical material as well as visual, constructing a surreal undetermined score mirroring intimate feelings about the scene and the performing space and action.

Goffredo Plastino (Newcastle University), Gioiosa.

Twenty-four photographs from a three-years reportage on drumming and processional dance in a Calabrian village, South Italy: unpublished, forgotten and retrieved after about thirty years, a visual reflection on sound, ritual behavior and time.

Roberto Roda (Ferrara), Seeing Music.

Music is sound, photography is an extension of the eye: the camera can unfold the actions of the musicians, their identities, the relationship between them and the listeners, it can visually explore musical places. The photographs included in this portfolio show some extraordinary or ordinary moments of music making and representation in Italy since the seventies: they are all part of a larger documentary work on Italian folk and popular music cultures and their imagination.

Riccardo Schwamenthal, Live in the 1960s.

A selection of “snapshots of life” by the late Riccardo Schwamenthal, a well-known freelance Italian photographer, chosen from his large archive, which focus on his distinctive musical performance framing and his respect for the integrity and normality of musicians and singers.


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Stephen A. Bergquist (Boston), Some Nineteenth-Century Musical Caricatures.

The great age of caricature lithography in France lasted from 1816, when the first lithographic publishing firms in Paris were established, into the 1860s. Ten lithographs are representative of the range of musical caricatures that appeared during this half-century. In 1821 the young Eugène Delacroix produced a lithograph for the newspaper Le Miroir, nominally a caricature of the aged dancer Auguste Vestris, but in fact a comment on the moribund state of French grand opera. Concert d’amateurs, an undated lithograph by Carle Vernet, done around 1818–25, shows an orchestra of cats. Rossini is depicted in an 1829 caricature by Jean-Gabriel Scheffer discussing a piece of music with a cellist. Louis-Philippe, who ascended the French throne in 1830, was mercilessly caricatured during his eighteen-year reign, and often depicted as a pear, as in Auguste Desperet’s 1833 lithograph for La Caricature, where he is shown in the title role of Molière’s L’avare, and where the musicians in the orchestra pit are all French government ministers. The great bass Luigi Lablache is shown in an 1843 music title-page by Célestin Nanteuil. The following year Paul Gavarni depicted an old flute player for the Revue et Gazette Musicale. Around mid-century Frédéric Bouchot and Honoré Daumier produced series of caricatures of musicians, of which Une note sensible and Un passage difficile are examples. The Belgian tenor Charles Wicart was depicted in an 1856 caricature by his compatriot Félicien Rops. Rossini, one of the most frequently caricatured musicians of his day, was portrayed in an 1862 lithograph by Étienne Carjat, who became one of the greatest of the early French portrait photographers.

Monika Ciura (Uniwersytet Warszawski), Drums in the Visual and Archaelogical Records of the Maya in the Classic Period.

The pre-Columbian Maya drums are known in several forms: large and small cylindrical drums standing on the ground and ceramic drums held in hand or under the arm. The commonly used word for a tall cylindrical drum is pax. Its height requires a standing position of the drummer. In visual sources, the drum’s membrane is represented plain or marked with the dark dots, the symbol of jaguar skin. The skin appears glued or tucked to the trunk by the semicircular appendages. Most of the drum bodies are depicted in different shades of brown. The part of the trunk just above the legs is usually decorated with three bands of different colors, possibly representing carved or painted ornamentation. In depictions on the Chama-style vases are documented ensembles consisting of a rattle, the cylindrical drum (pax), and the idiophone made of turtle carapace beaten with deer antlers. The smaller variant of pax, reaching the abdomen of a sitting or kneeling drummer, appears in analogues ensembles.
Ceramic drums are represented in two forms known as “pedestal vase” and “lamp glass”. The first has a narrow base and wider top, the latter consists of a narrow base, bulbous middle body and the top part with the cylindrical or goblet-like shape. The archaeological data document two size ranges of ceramic drums. Smaller drums are between 15 and 25 cm high, which seems to be the size proper to hold the drum in the hand. The larger drums start from 25 cm, and usually are between 30 and 40 cm high. Another classification of ceramic drums may be based on the playing techniques, which usually is related to the drum’s size. Smaller drums are held vertically in one hand and beaten with the other. Larger drums are held horizontally under the arm and played with the other hand. Holding the drum under the arm freed one hand, which was often used for playing another instrument. Both the “pedestal vase” and “lamp glass” type can be played in either way. Archaeological excavations have documented ceramic drums in burial, residential, and ritual contexts.

Grzegorz Kubies (Warsaw), Luxuria damnata in the Last Judgment of Jheronimus Bosch (and His Workshop) at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Vienna.

Bosch’s vision of afterlife touches on three elements: penalties corresponding to lust as well as music and dance. This is reflected in his Last Judgment at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Vienna, where in the emblematic scene in the central panel are represented a man lying on a bed and a dancing woman accompanied by two musicians. The demonic duet of the lute and “organic” shawm is interpreted as an accompaniment to dance, a prelude to the retributional love-making. The original sonic-visual conglomerate seems to be also an allusion to the moral ugliness, spiritual disharmony of the damned couple. The punishment of eternal damnation, as the painter shows, bears the stigma of earthly pleasures. Even though, these particular motifs and figures can be traced back to illuminated manuscripts and incunabula, the narrative form undertaken by Bosch is innovative and unique in late medieval religious iconography. The most important literary sources of inspiration for Bosch were the Bible (Leviticus 24:17–21) and De imitatione Christi (1.24), attributed to Thomas à Kempis.