Monday, March 21, 2011


Two of my friends and mentors have recently spoken about intention, one in the context of cello, the other in the context of painting.  That two such messages found me, so close together, gave me food for thought.

The idea of intention in music is to decide what you want to say before you play a piece.  The concept felt foreign to me, and it goes against my natural tendency.  I've always thought my role as the player was to render what the composer called for.  This may come from my choral past: as part of an ensemble, one does not try to leave an individual mark; rather, the purpose is to blend.  And blending is also part of my nature, for any number of reasons, and the idea that *I* should decide what to express when playing a piece of music reverses my role. Rather than the musician/player serving the music/composer,  the music is the vehicle for the self-expression of the player.  This calls for more assertiveness than I am used to.

In her blog post of February 20th, Rebecca Crowell discussed Form and Content and the dynamics and interaction of the two in art.  Ideally, the two are in balance. In reality, one may frequently lead the way over the other.  The challenge is then to create the balance within the given piece (see Rebecca's wonderful essay to explore this further).

Content involves intention, and part of the dynamics of creating a painting is to use Form (the materials) to express the intention. Once again, my thoughts ground to a halt at this concept.  Not that I didn't understand it, I just couldn't identify my intention.  I have defined my general intention in painting: As in music, it is to create beauty.  But to have a specific intention for a specific painting -- especially in abstract work, which doesn't rely on the scenery or object in front of one's eyes -- that gives me pause.  I guess I have been Form-driven, playing with dynamics of color, value, composition, to create spatial beauty.  Maybe that is a kind of intention, but I think that there is more to it than that.  Even in an abstract piece, there needs to be Content.  The dilemma for me is the same at the easel as at the cello: how do I decide what my intention is?  Once I have done that, I think that Form will conform (no pun intended) to it in a fairly straightforward way.

Clearly there is more to think about and say in this regard.

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