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Jazz and the Visual Arts: Painting Music   

Jazz had an incredible impact on the visual arts during the twentieth century. Delighting in the jazz performances of the Albert Ammons Trio directly influenced Piet Mondrian’s painting, “Broadway Boogie Woogie.” We will primarily focus on early modernism in jazz and art but will also include more contemporary developments. Through listening to the various styles of jazz as we examine representative art, we will explore the parallels and connections between the two modernist forms. Starting with a brief discussion of the collaboration between Wassily Kandinsky and his theories of sound and color and Arnold Schoenberg and his modernist atonal music, we will progress to the development of the basic styles of jazz including ragtime and blues and proceed to early New Orleans Jazz, Swing, Bebop, and Fusion, as we identify similar aspects of American and European Abstract painting. Included will be jazz greats from Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong to Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, and Mary Lou Williams; as well as the contributions of George and Ira Gershwin, and singers Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and June Christy. Artists include Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Deborah Remington, Norman Lewis, Alma Thomas, John Michael Basquiat, Stuart Davis, and Romare Bearden. American modern artist Abraham Walkowitz, a contemporary of photographer Alfred Stieglitz said, “Abstract art…is a universal language, and dwells in the realm of music with equivalent emotion. Its melody is attuned to the receptive eye as music is to the ear.” In the course of our six-week journey together, we will swing to the “Fascinating Rhythm” of music and art.


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