Plane isometries in the music and art of Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis
Holm-Hudson, K. J. & Kucinskas, D. (2005). Plane isometries in the music and art of Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis. Musicae Scientiae, Special issue 2005-2006, 109-137.
Background in art history. In the early twentieth century, numerous composers and artists including Scriabin, Schoenberg, and Kandinsky explored connections between music and visual art. Even so, Lithuanian artist-composer Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis (1875-1911) stands apart in the extent of his formal training in both areas, and the degree to which he believed the two media interpenetrated. Initially trained as a musician, Ciurlionis studied painting at the Warsaw School of Fine Arts from 1904 through 1906. Between 1907 and 1909 he aimed at synthesis of the arts with paintings often analogous to musical forms (for example, the four-painting Sonata of the Sun). Some scholars have linked Ciurlionis to symbolism; others have linked him to abstraction. Still others have examined musical metaphor in Ciurlionis's painting. Background in music theory. As Ciurlionis's involvement in painting deepened, his music changed to emphasize intersecting lines and a preoccupation with isometry, suggesting increasingly literal translation of visual principles into musical notation. Each of the four visual plane isometries (rotational symmetry, reflection, translation, and glide reflection) has its musical counterpart, giving rise to various theories of musical isometry (cf. David Lewin and Ernö Lendvai). Aims. The authors show how Ciurlionis's creative process in his music was influenced by visual principles. Main contribution. Ciurlionis's posthumous fame was as an artist until publication of his music began in 1957. Since then, although several Lithuanian scholars have analysed his music, scholars outside Lithuania have focused on his paintings. The extent to which Ciurlionis's newly discovered "visual thought" of 1904-1906 permeated his music during those years and thereafter has scarcely been examined. Implications. By examining the structural similarity of Ciurlionis's different artistic media, one is able to uncover the deeper unity of his artistic expression. Examination of some of the distinctive tendencies of Ciurlionis's art manifested in his music yields a deeper understanding of his unique creative process. ...