Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sound and Vision - Fra Angelico and Britten

The Annunciation, Fra Angelico (1437-1446)

It's nice to have such a cultured family. My mom loves medieval and early Renaissance painting, especially Fra Angelico, and she passed a lot of that appreciation on to me and my sister, who got her BA in art history. One of my favorite trips we've ever taken together was to the Cloisters in NYC. Not only do my mom and sister love art, but my brother is a music professor, and every once in a while he sends me some of the music he's working on, like the Faure songs I've posted here. He's currently coaching the second of five canticles Benjamin Britten wrote for tenor, countertenor, and piano. The original text for this piece is taken directly from Chester's mystery plays, a cycle of 15th century plays based on biblical texts.

The connection between the Britten piece and the Fra Angelico painting isn't just the concurrence of the art and the text, it's their shared depiction of contact with the supernatural. Everything about the Fra Angelico painting is otherworldly, from the over-sized figures and Gabriel's rainbow wings to the beauty of the painting itself (and, you know, the whole idea of the annunciation to begin with), and Britten's portrayal of the voice of God at the beginning of this piece is almost scarily awe-inspiring.

Britten's Canticle II - Abraham and Issac


Anonymous said...

Man, this post is just filled with everything I love. I adore Fra Angelico and Britten! That song is gorgeous.


Anonymous said...

I love this scramble of posts - post-punk, vacuum coffee makers and Stumptown in the same breath, Fra Angelico and perhaps an accidental reference to "Sound and Vision" one of Bowie's all time great songs... found your blog because I just discovered Siouxsie and the Banshees, - I don't know how I missed them the first time around - but in looking them up, I also really fell in love with John McGeoch's guitar playing - wow - the German live concert rebroadcast by rockpalaste with Switch (and Head Cut) on it (see Skywalker74 for the utube post) - smokin session between Severin and McGeoch. cheers from Vancouver!

hex conduction hour said...

Hey Vancouver! Yeah, that Bowie reference isn't an accident, just semi (very semi) clever. Glad you like what you see. I actually scored a DVD of that Rockpalast show, and you're right, it's awesome. They were really on fire for that concert. btw -- I update my tumblr a little more regularly (http://disciplineofde.tumblr.com/). Not as much content but a similar vibe.