Monday, November 9, 2009

Music and Pictures by...

On the River - 17, 2007

I’ve been thinking lately about if and how music influences my pictures. Studio photographers have been using music to establish moods for years. The idea of having one’s own “personal soundtrack,” the background music for your life, has been around since at least the first Sony Walkman came along.

When I was taking pictures last year at Martha’s Vineyard, I was in the midst of my annual run through Mozart light operas, Cosi Fan Tutte, The Marriage of Figaro, and The Magic Flute. Walking on the beach or driving along quiet country roads to the Mozart’s precise lyrics and pacing was very good for getting my mind in gear.

When I’m in a city, I’m more likely to be listening to the B-52s or something equally upbeat and loud.

I was reminded of this while listening (via podcast) to Elvis Mitchell’s radio program The Treatment the other day on my way to a meeting. Mitchell was interviewing Jason Schwartzman, star of the HBO comedy Bored to Death about how he prepares for acting roles. To get into the role of real-like writer Jonathan Ames, Schwartzman loads up his iPod with music he thinks his television character would listen to. Some of it’s indie rock. But because the character has a comedic, Raymond Chandler-inspired approach to detective work, Schwartzman plays the theme from The Pink Panther whenever he’s preparing for sleuthing scenes.

I don’t know that I can actually see the music in my photography. I have a hard time seeing anything different in a picture taken “under the influence” of, say Mozart. But there’s no question but that Mozart can make my soul soar, and that’s bound to have an impact on how I sense things around me. I mean, how can one listen to Soave il vento (“May the wind be gentle”) from Cosi Fan Tutte and not want to create something lyrical? Listen to it here and see what you think.

I also know that listening to the B-52s makes me a more outgoing person. So maybe I’m a little more jovial and in people’s faces when I’ve been listening to something upbeat.

I was re-listening to some Shostakovich jazz waltzes recently while taking pictures of sailboats. They’re so smooth (the waltzes, that is) and the boats were rocking so gently that I could have easily been walking along the pier in three-quarter time. I don’t know, myself. You’d have to ask someone who saw me. It probably wasn’t a pretty sight.

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