Music in Art: International Journal for Music Iconography XXXVIII (2013)


Ardian Ahmedaja (Institut für Volksmusikforschung und Ethnomusikologie, Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien), The Lahutë between Everyday Practice and Symbolism.

The lahutë is a single-string fiddle used by Albanian lahutarë to accompany epic songs (kângë, kangë, and këngë). Its different images are influenced essentially by the connection with ideas of “cultural heritage” and “national culture”, particularly since the independence of the country in 1912. The instrument is made of one piece of wood with a skin soundboard. The scroll on the neck of lahutë could be made in the shape of a heart, a leaf, or a goat head with antlers, which is considered to symbolize the helmet of the Albanian national hero Gjergj Kastrioti, known as Skanderbeg (Skënderbeu; 1405–1468). Unlike on gusle—the same instrument used by the Albanians’ Slavic neighbors in Serbia, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina—which during the second half of the twentieth century is decorated with likenesses of politicians and nationalistic symbolism, political figures or singers have been rarely portrayed on the lahutë neck. The lahutë’s bow is frequently made in the form of a serpent, possibly symbolizing snake as protector of the house.
During the first half of the twentieth century lahutë and the “këngët e Mujit e Halilit” (songs of Muji and Halili) which were the accompanied with it became the Albanian national symbol in public discussions, publications and works of art. An example is the poem Lahuta e malcí­s (The highland lute) by the Roman Catholic priest Gjergj Fishta (1871–1940), published in 1937, where the instrument’s name represents the art of telling and the paean based on songs accompanied with the lahutë which the poet had learned from the highlanders living in northern Albania.

Any use of lahutë as term or image would not make sense in Lyra Shqiptare by Pjetër Dungu, the first Albanian melody collection published in 1940, which contains music from the Albanian urban areas. Therefore it is surprising to find with the melody no. 20 a drawing of a lahutar. The instrument is here related to the idea of the traditional national culture rather than an illustration for the particular song or its origin.

The understanding of the lahutë as a part of local musical practice gradually gained in importance during the second half of the twentieth century, although the frequency of its everyday use decreased. The lahutë is also disappearing from television and radio programs as well as recordings’ market, despite its continuing presence on Internet, at folklore festivals and at public gatherings of lahutarë, where now only short fragments of songs are played.

Maria Teresa Arfini (Università della Valle d’Aosta), Abstract Film as Viewable Music: Early Experiments of Hans Richter, Walther Ruttmann and Oskar Fischinger.

With the development of the cinematic technology, the time element could be applied to the painting and musical structures could be correlated to moving image. The German dada painter Hans Richter (1888–1976) turned away in 1917 from expressionism, deciding “to paint completely objectively and logically” and in 1921 he premiered his first animated film, Rhythmus 1 which is organized on the principle of counterpoint between the vertical dimension (simultaneity of elements on the screen) and horizontal dimension (succession of elements over time). The ten-minute long Lihtspiel Opus 1 by Walther Ruttmann (1887–1941), created in 1919–1920, is structured like a music piece with three movements, and in each of these we can see a thematic work with contrasting themes and their variations. The score for string quartet accompaniment, includes color pictures of the film with indicated repeats and changes, in order to allow the musicians to synchronize playing with the film projection. Influenced by Ruttmann’s experiments, Oskar Fischinger (1900–1967) made between 1929 and 1934 fourteen Studien, attempting to create a “visual music” with a perfect synaesthetic integration of images and music.

Antonio Baldassarre (Hochschule Luzern: Musik), Being Engaged, Not Informed: French “Orientalists” Revisited.

The relationship between West and East—in both in colonial and post-colonial periods—is anything other than a one-directional relationship. Rather it is shaped by a constant circulation and a steady swap not only of human beings, animals, goods, diseases and technologies but also of social, cultural and political practices and concepts. These processes are characterized by permanently validating and deprecatory translations of the meaning and the function of those ideas, concepts and strategies in circulation. Thus, disbanding the all too dull dichotomous, static and essentialist analysis of the relationship between the East and West opens new ways to approach the visual representation of the “Western Orient”. Aspects and mechanisms of self-orientalization within Western culture are negotiated in which the representation of music seems to have played an important role as evidenced by their strong presence in Western visual representations and visions of the “Orient”. Taking into account this perspective the paper explores the topic of the “Western Orient” with a special emphasis on the function of representations of music based on both the close reading and the analysis of the embodied narratives in visual instances.

Bruno Forment (Universiteit Gent & Vrije Universiteit Brussel), Jumbo-Sized Artifacts of Operatic Practice: The Opportunities and Challenges of Historical Stage Sets.

Despite the groundbreaking research done at the historical theaters of Drottningholm, Český Krumlov, and other locations, the study of operatic iconography still tends to focus on visual renderings (on designs, artists’ impressions, and photographs) of operatic practice rather than on primary, “scenic” artifacts thereof, such as flats and drops. As a result, numerous valuable holdings of authentic scenery have barely been considered, much less subjected to scholarly scrutiny. One such holding is the newly discovered scenic collection of the Stadsschouwburg in Kortrijk (Belgium). Comprising 13 backcloths, 21 borders, in excess of 298 framed units, plus authentic stage furniture, practicables and sound effects, this forgotten treasury houses a near-complete set of generic stock sets next to genuine production materials for Aida, La Bohéme, Carmen, Faust, and other blockbusters from the operatic repertoire. The décors were designed and executed by an acknowledged adept of the “Parisian” school of scenic painting, Albert Dubosq (1863–1940).

Gu Xingli (Dazhongsi Ancient Bell Museum, Beijing), Evidence of the Existence of the Jian Drum Dance during the Han Dynasty.

It is generally considered that the jian drum dance emerged during the Han period in China. However, in contrast to other dances of the Han dynasty, jian drum dance has not been mentioned in any written source. The only evidence about its existence are iconographic representations carved on stones, showing people apparently moving and striking the jian drum. As the jian drum dance is not known from later iconographic sources, it would appear that the dance was performed only during the Han dynasty, and particularly during the period when those images were carved. Based on written records and iconographic data, this paper questions the existence of the jian drum dance and discusses the reasons led to the affirmation of its existence.

Huang Pei-ling (Graduate Institute of Musicology, National Taiwan University), Devotional Buddhism, Sinicization, and the Politics of Representation in the Northern Dynasties Music Iconography at Dunhuang.

Wall paintings in a group of 25 Mogao grottoes of Dunhuang, constructed during the Northern dynasties (465–585), include depictions of approximately 450 musicians playing instruments. According to the time of their production, they can be classified in three periods: the first period (465–500) coincides with the middle period of Northern Wei; the second period (525–545) with the government of Prince Yuan Rong, as well as with the later period of Northern Wei and Western Wei; and the third period (545–585) with the Northern Zhou period. Among the instruments particularly interesting are conical drums depicted during the second period (caves nos. 431, 435, 248, 249, 285, 288). In the middle of one or both heads, these drums have some kind of a round button similar to tuning paste (syāhi). This detail indicates that such hand-struck shoulder-hung drums, with or without tuning paste, were transmitted from India, via Gandhara and Kucha, to northern China, including the Xiliang area and Dunhuang in particular. They followed the trade and movement of people, and were also used at Buddhist festivals and devotional rituals. The drums jigu and yengu, which are always mentioned together in written accounts associated with xiliangji, the Xiliang style of music adopted for court entertainment, were transmitted from northwestern India through folk religious festivals and in the new environment came to be seen as a pair, one with tuning paste and one without. The Central Asian style of painting that was prevalent at Dunhuang during the first and the second periods, changed in the third period to the Southern Han style, what also brought the new preference for the pictorial narratives which included silk and bamboo Han instruments.

Raquel Jiménez Pasalodos & Jon Peruarena Arregui (Universidad de Valladolid), Musical Iconographies and the Construction of Historical Narratives: The Museo Oriental of Valladolid.

The Museo Oriental of Valladolid, the main collection of Asian art in Spain, was created by the Order of Saint Agustine in 1874, exhibiting the objects collected by the Augustinian friars since 1565. In fact, they were the first order to arrive to Philipins in 1565, commanded by Fr. Andrés de Urdaneta, in the earliest Spanish attempt to evangelise the island. Afterwards, Agustinian missionaries visited China (1575) and Japan (1584), where they stablished houses in 1681 and 1602 respectively.
During more than 400 years Augustinians were bringing to the Valladolid convent artistic and ethnographic objects. Under the evocative name of “Museo Oriental”, the collection presents a specific Roman Catholic narrative of the historical process of the missions in the Far East, together with a particular view of the Other that suits some of the key notions of Said’s views on orientalism, undoubtedly related to the losing colony of Philipins in 1898.

Martin Knust (Linnéuniversitetet, Växjö & Örebro Universitet), Towards a Social History of Music in Ancient Angkor: The Iconography of Music on the Bayon Temple Carvings.

The culture of ancient Angkor—a medieval empire that ruled a large part of the Southeast-Asian peninsula for about four centuries—remains still to be puzzling for researchers due to the lack of written sources. The excavations, which took place in Cambodia since the late nineteenth century, have revealed and are still revealing many new and sometimes astounding facts about this dense populated kingdom and its cities. Archeology and iconography play a crucial role if it comes to gain information from the preserved artifacts and buildings, for instance, about the periodization of Angkor’s history. In this context the iconography of music can contribute with valuable additional observations which allow us even to go so far to outline a social history of Angkor. The largest variety of pictures of musicians in Angkor Thom—the former temple town of the Angkor capital, nowadays located at the city of Siem Reap—can be found on the Bayon temple, which was erected at the end of the twelfth century. The paper describes the different sorts of instruments—some still in use in Southeast Asia—ensembles, and audiences which were skillfully carved on the walls of Bayon, providing an idea about the musical life of the different social classes.

Liang Mian (Shaanxi History Museum), Scenes of Music-Making and Dancing on Wall Paintings of the Tang Tombs in the Xi’an Area.

As the capital of the Tang dynasty, Xi’an city and its surrounding preserve many burial places of the royal families, nobilities and the local elites. Among more than 3000 excavated Tang tombs, about one hundred contain wall paintings which are rich in iconographic content and superb in the execution quality. Twenty-three of them have images concerning instrumental music performances, dancing and singing.

Evangelia Mitsopoulou (Music School of Thessaloniki), Liszt’s and Genelli’s Dante-Symphonie Project.

For the first performance of his Dante-Symphonie, set for women’s (or boys’) chorus and orchestra, which took place in Dresden in 1856, Liszt developed plans to have a simultaneous projection of the related images by his painter friend Giovanni Buonaventura Genelli (1798–1868). Genelli has produced thirty-six etchings inspired by Dante’s Divina Commedia in Munich possibly before 1846 and published by Cotta’s firm between 1846 and 1852 in the volume Umrisse zu Dante’s Gättlicher Komödie von Bonaventura Genelli. The costs associated with the project of Genelli’s images made for Liszt the idea impossible to implement. An appendix provides a catalogue of Genelli’s artworks inspired by La Divina Commedia, preserved at the Graphische Sammlung of the Klassik Stiftung in Weimar.

Anna Mouat (University of Calgary) & Melissa Mouat (Cambridge University), European Perceptions of Chinese Culture as Depicted on the Eighteenth-Century Opera-Ballet Stage.

Since the time of Marco Polo, Europeans have been fascinated by Chinese artefacts and culture. By the eighteenth century, the Chinoiserie movement was an important influence on European arts and culture in general, and on Baroque opera-ballet in particular. Documents showing eighteenth-century costume designs and ballet performances reveal that certain gestures and movements defined dancer on the Baroque stage as representing a Chinese character (for example, the Chinois and Chinoise in Jean-Philippe Rameau’s ballet Les Indes Galantes, ca. 1735). One of these “à la Chinoise” gestures has endured into the twenty-first century: upright index fingers held aloft, either side of the head, appear in virtually every choreographed version of the Chinese Dance in Čajkovskij’s The nutcracker.

Sylvain Perrot (École française d’Athénes), The Iconography of the Bells in the Greco-Roman World: A Link between the West and the East?

Bells in the Greco-Roman world present an interesting paradox: although the instrument is occasionally found in archaeological excavations, its representations in visual arts are very rare. One possible explanation for this may be that bells were used in everyday life and not in spacial events. This makes the few documents depicting bells very precious. Particularly wide-spread in the Greco-Roman world are the representations of bell around the neck of an animal (pig, dog, giraffe and elephant). Elephants are the most interesting case because they can be found mainly on coins minted by cities or kingdoms at the periphery of the Hellenistic world, such as Etruria and the Indo-Greek kingdom of Bactria. The motive of elephant with a bell could have been created in Asia Minor during the Seleucid domination, thorough the mixing of Persian traditions of animal bells and Indian habits of war elephants. It is also likely that it was diffused to the West by Hannibal, who had diplomatic relationships with the Seleucid king, and to the East in the Indo-Greek kingdoms.

Cristina Santarelli (Istituto per i Beni Musicali in Piemonte, Turin), From Vision to Sound: Morton Feldman and Abstract Expressionism.

Like other artists of the same generation, such John Cage and Earle Brown, the American composer Morton Feldman (1926–1987) included many painters among his friends and was profoundly influenced by the contemporary visual arts scene. However, he has not believed that music should directly emulate painting: thus, while many works from his catalogue are dedicated to individual painters such as Mark Rothko, Philip Guston and Willem de Kooning, he never sought to evoke their style or strive to attain similar goals. What the composer evidently wanted was to bring to music the immediacy of impact he found in contemporary abstract expressionism and dadaism: in some writings he alluded specifically to the influence that Jackson Pollock’s “allover” approach to his canvases and Robert Rauschenberg’s “collage-like technique” had exerted on his method of composition.

Arabella Teniswood-Harvey (University of Tasmania), Music and Cross-Cultural Exchange in the Art of Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton and James McNeill Whistler.

Influenced by the American-born, London-based artist James McNeill Whistler, the Australian painters Tom Roberts (1856–1931) and Arthur Streeton (1867–1943) cultivated an interest in music and in Asian and exotic motifs as their subject matters. Their use of musical titles and a compositional approach fashioned by Japonisme demonstrates their deliberate alignment with both the British aesthetic movement and French impressionism as well as their participation in the wider, international context of cross-cultural aesthetic exchange. Questioning whether there was ever a direct cultural exchange between East and West (perhaps stimulated by the participation of Asian countries in the International Exhibitions held in Melbourne in 1880 and 1888), or simply a desire on the behalf of Australian artists and their public to follow the fashions set by England and Paris, explored is the meaning of—and reasons behind—the frequent association of music and exotic cultures in the Australian art of this period.

Theodor E. Ulieriu-Rostás (École des hautes études en science sociales, Paris & Universitatea din Bucureşti), Music and Socio-Cultural Identity in Attic Vase Painting: Prolegomena to Future Research (Pt 1).

In the Greco-Roman literary tradition, the aulos is typically associated with the barbarian Near East and, above all, with Asia Minor: a connection which transcends the boundaries of literary genres to become a commonplace asserted through different discursive strategies in tragedy and melic poetry, in philosophical and technical texts. While an import of the aulos from Asia Minor to Greece during the early Iron Age cannot be ruled out for certain, by the fifth century BC the aulos had nevertheless become an entirely autochthonous instrument, deeply embedded in the Greek song culture.

Recent scholarship shows this purported foreignness and easterness of the aulos to be a construction, if not invented, at all events radicalized amidst the fifth-century BC Athenian polemics around the new music, whose iconic instrument was the aulos. On the basis of a series of contexts in which the aulos is represented on Attic red-figure vases, a comparison is made between the easternising and alienating discourse of the aulos found in texts and Attic iconographical tradition. Can we identify a visual equivalent to the easternising discourse in literary sources? What semiotic functions does the aulos play in the economy of the image? Does it need a visual complement in order to allude to an Eastern context?

Anna Valentini (Università degli Studi di Padova), Musicians in Early Seventeenth-Century Banqueting Scenes in Ferrara.

Within only eleven years, between 1611 and 1622, Ippolito Scarsella called Scarsellino (ca. 1560–1620) and Carlo Bononi (ca. 1575–1632) painted in Ferrara six large-scale compositions of banquet scenes which include musicians. Scarsellino produced two versions of the Marriage at Cana (1611, Ferrara, Pinacoteca Nazionale; ca. 1615, Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen) and the Supper in the House of Simon (ca. 1617, Jerusalem, The Israel Museum); Bononi produced the Banquet of Esther for San Domenico church in Ravenna (1610s), and again two versions of the Marriage at Cana for the Basilica of Santa Maria in Vado in Ferrara (ca. 1622, Ferrara, Pinacoteca Nazionale) and for the monastery of San Cristoforo della Certosa in Ferrara (1622). All these compositions represent biblical celebrations, and each of them includes a prominently represented ensemble of musicians.

The first to introduce musicians in the banqueting scene was the Ferrarese painter Benvenuto Tisi, known as “Il Garofalo” (1481–1559), who drew very clearly on accounts of the banquets held since the late fifteenth century by the Dukes d’Este, who had refined the ritual of banqueting to a fine art. However, the greatest influence on the theme of the banquet was Veronese’s Marriage at Cana, painted in 1562–63 for the refectory of the Benedictine monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice.

Bononi’s scenes have a theatrical feel. He repeated the same position of his musicians in all three paintings as if the musicians, which are situated in the center of the banquet scene, occupied a definite place in the dining hall. Such position of musicians was possibly parallel to the position they occupied in the new Teatro Farnese in Parma, built by Giovan Battista Aleotti (1545–1636) of Ferrara and inaugurated in 1628. Musicians were placed there at the foot of the proscenium, what was an innovative position at the time. Two flights of stairs led from the stage down into what is now referred to as the parterre. On the right side was built a balustrade for the musicians, and this position made it easy to coordinate the performance and ensured that the instrumental accompaniment could be clearly heard both by the singers and the audience.

Wang Ling 王玲 (Yunnan University, Kunming), Music References in the Pictorial History of the Nanzhao Kingdom.

The painted scroll Pictorial History of the Nanzhao Kingdom (Nanzhao Guo Shi Tuzhuan)—preserved in a copy at the Fujii Saiseikai Yurinkan Museum of Art in Kyoto—was produced in the Nanzhao Kingdom in southwestern China in the second year (899) of the Zhongxing reign period (898–902) of King Shun Huazhen (877–902), which corresponds with the second year of the Guanghua reign period (898–901) of Emperor Zhaozong (867–904) of the Tang dynasty (618–907). It illustrates the legend about the introduction of Buddhism to the Nanzhao people, and the help and revelation which they received from the Bodhisattva Guanyin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, in establishing their kingdom in the area of the West Er River (Erhai Lake in the present-day Dali Bai Nationality Autonomous Prefecture in western Yunnan) during the middle period of the Tang dynasty.

There are three musical references included in the painted scroll. One is showing heavenly music ensemble consisting of a konghou with the head of a phoenix, a curved-neck pipa, a flute with the head of a phoenix, a bili, a gong, and clappers. The second comes at the end of the first part of the narrative showing Guanyin’s sixth miraculous transformation, with the bronze drum being beaten. The third image with music reference comes from the scene showing Guanyin’s seventh transformation, where in front of the lotus throne, on which is standing Acuoye Guanyin, a bronze drum is casually thrown sideways on the ground.