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!