Campus artists create more than visual work

The Temple Orchestra’s performance of “Ansel Adams: America” led this A&E columnist to wonder whether music influences art or vice versa.

The Temple Orchestra’s performance of “Ansel Adams: America” led this A&E columnist to wonder whether music influences art or vice versa.

Recently, I sang at the Kimmel Center with the Temple Orchestra. The orchestra performed “Ansel Adams: America,” and the piece seemed pretty ordinary until a series of Adams’ photographs popped up on some screens above the musicians.

nicole welk

Adams was a famed landscape photographer of the early 20th century, and I knew a little bit about him from taking art history classes through the years. My eyes danced from the musicians to the photographs and back to the musicians as the concert progressed, until I finally had to ask myself, “Are the musicians narrating the photographs, or are the photographs framing the music? Which form of art becomes a reaction to the other, and does it matter?”

The Dave and Chris Brubeck piece the orchestra performed was written as a tribute to Adams, with flowing melodies inspired by his life and photographs. The music served as a connection between two wholly separate art forms: music and photography.

This blending of art forms isn’t exactly uncommon. The moving pictures produced in film and animations are usually shown to the musicians after their production, so that the composers can create backdrops of sound to narrate the pieces. Artists of the 20th century were often inspired by the new waves of jazz and rock and roll, and many of their works reflected new movements in music, as well as their feelings and expressions.

It sometimes becomes difficult to remember theater, music, film and fine art are all of the same principle and purpose, especially with the separation of these practices by different colleges and schools at Temple. There is often an integration of these separate mediums – some art classes challenge students to create works from book titles, poems or specific songs – but they are still distinct.

When the glass blower jams out to his or her favorite music in the hot shop, do the initial ideas for the work create the piece? Or do the guitar riffs and beat measures dictate how quickly or slowly the glass artist moves from time to time? What’s the inspiration? As I write this article, I’m thinking and typing to the sounds of Weezer and Thrice. Does this music affect what I’m saying?

The connections between art and music need to be acknowledged more often. In this contemporary age of art, lines are blurred, with visual artists using music and film to express a different way of communication and interpretation.

This is exciting, but it makes me wonder why there is still a distinct separation between the university’s schools. Music students don’t receive the fine arts students’ e-mails announcing special exhibitions, and the art students aren’t told about the Adams piece being performed.

If more dialogue occurred between Temple’s fine artists and classical musicians, Main Campus art could flourish more so than ever before. All forms of art intertwine with one another constantly. It is important to come together to understand these influences and to create regular conversation between students of these distinct mediums.

Nicole Welk can be reached at

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