Thursday, March 19, 2015

Iconic Ionian

Iconic Ionian, 7 x 5", watercolor/Neocolor II
     And the first shall be last. The Ionian Mode is the basis for the other six modes. It is the fundamental C Major. Joanna Mell, in her book Modal Musings calls the Ionian Mode neutral. Perhaps that it why I waited until I had illustrated the others before tackling this mode. How do you represent neutral? But when I started thinking about that, I flashed to a study about what people find to be a beautiful painting. It turns out, that across all cultures there are commonalities in what constitutes such a painting. This painting would include the following elements: a water source, an open field, a path and the color blue. It was pointed out, that basically, the image would include what was needed to sustain human life: water, arable land, breathable air and the suggestion that humans had been there (path).
    The Ionian Mode represents abundant and happy life and the contentment of home. And that explains why the other modes exist; we can never leave well enough alone!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Lunar Locrian

Lunar Locrian, 5 x 7", watercolor/Neocolor II
   The Locrian Mode is the last of the seven modes, and it is the most "unsettling" as Joanna Mell observes in her book, Modal Musings. The obvious reason is that it begins with a half-step. To me, the Locrian Mode sounds like outer space with planets spiraling ever farther. In particular, I think of Gustav Holst's  The Planets, and after a little exploration, I see that it is even more particularly, Neptune, the Mystic. I was thinking about the ending, where the voices are singing two alternating notes, a half-step apart. My mind's eye sees the spinning planets. Interestingly, while listening to Neptune, it seems that Holst is using the Locrian scale straight-up (and the harp is prominent).
    However, I am an Earthling, firmly tethered to the Mother Earth. Therefore, I am going to use our moon as my inspiration for illustrating the Locrian Mode. Yet, Mother Earth, straight up is probably in the Ionian Mode. To present a Locrian half-step twist, I will represent our moon with a shadow moon (not Moon Shadow, the Cat Stevens tune, which is Ionian, I believe). Our own moon, with a reflection, like what might happen when you are trying to take a picture of the moon through a window (which I did this very morning!) The Locrian Mode is a reminder that although we are firmly planted on Earth (the same seven tones) we are also part of the vast, infinite universe and beyond.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Lent in the Aeolian Mode

Aeolian Arch, 7 x 5", watercolor/Neocolor II
Every Lent, I like to read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, preferably reading from the worn copy that belonged to my mother and still has her special page marker attached. The Secret Garden is the perfect story for Lent, or winter leading into spring for that matter. It starts with death and winter. Nature and humble humanity work wonders and the old, dead, matted detritus of garden and heart are pruned away to allow Spring to slowly, but surely bloom. It is the ultimate redemption story--my favorite kind.
    I also like to watch the l993 movie by Agnieszka Holland. At one point, the cook belts out Greensleeves as she rolls out her piecrust. Her song carries out of the house and echoes across the moor where Mary Lennox is warming to the idea of life. In her book, Modal Musings, Joanna Mell cites Greensleeves as the classic Aeolian tune. It occurs to me that the message of The Secret Garden is also of the Aeolian mode. It alternates minor and major chords to come to an "introspective, plaintive and hauntingly beautiful" truth.
   My painting here was inspired by scenes in the movie. I have layered minor and major chords in the landscape to make an Aeolian composition. Spring is coming!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Mellifluous Mixolydian

Mellifluous Mixolydian, 5 x 7", watercolor/Neocolor II 
     When the thought first came to mind to pursue some sort of harp therapy training, I looked into a book by Kay Gardner, Sounding the Inner Landscape.  One of the things she considers in this volume is the history and use of musical modes, a subject I find quite intriguing. Gardner gives a bit of history of the modes and where they originated. It turns out that "Mixolydian" is credited by Plutarch to have been developed by Sappho on the island of Lesbos, thus Gardner suggests that "Mixolydian" is rightly named "Lesbian," and that we might make our "own conclusions as to why the Church and other sources named it Mixolydian." She calls this mode, "open and joyful", "extroverted and happy".
      This certainly rings true as I have been practicing and playing in this mode, thanks to the book by Joanna Mell, Modal Musings: Modes & Music.  This delightful volume is part of the Therapy Harp Training Program, the conduit for my pursuit of using the harp to help.  Playing through the original compositions by Mell has helped me to absorb the nature of the modes and identify the modes of common, and not-so-common tunes. The idea of making little paintings representing my interpretation of the modes also came out of this practice. The Mixolydian is indeed an "open and joyful" mode. I find that it easily trips off the fingers and is very much like a skip down a path to the open sea.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Lydian Lark

Lydian Lark, 7 x 5", watercolor/neocolor II
    Next stop on my musical modes tour, Lydian. To my ear, this is an odd mode. It strikes me as high key, with irregular steps. Perhaps my painting is too literal in interpreting these characteristics, but I can imagine ascending a path with oddly spaced stones, entering a mystical landscape.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Phrygian Fire and Depth

Phrygian Fire and Depth, 5 x 7", watercolor/Neocolor II
Continuing with my exploration of musical modes (please see my previous post, In the Dorian Wood, January 23, 2015), the painting above illustrates the mood evoked in me by the Phrygian mode. The underlying feeling for me is one of passion. Luther's hymn tune, Aus Tiefer Not plumbs the depth of this mode. I can also envision a tango dancer in red when I hear this mode which straddles a major/minor presence.

Friday, January 23, 2015

In the Dorian Wood

In the Dorian Wood, 5 x 7", watercolor/Neocolor II
I have begun a shift in my endeavors, working toward a focus on creating in a way that serves to comfort and heal in today's world. A big part of this shift involves learning how to make music that helps. Therefore, I am becoming familiar with musical modes--something I had not heard of before--and I am captivated! The enchantment comes from seeing how the same raw material can be rearranged and a totally different feeling emerges. While I am delving into these modes on my harp, landscapes begin to emerge. I thought it would be fun to make little paintings of how the different modes appear to me.
      My first posting will be in the Dorian mode. It is one step up from the starting point, the Ionian mode, which would be C major (or any major).  The Dorian mode has a magical quality that reminds me of being in the woods--my favorite place!