Thursday, June 30, 2016


The next composer I would like to translate into color is Henry Purcell.  Working around the same time as Corelli, he was none the less using more notes and a more complicated palette as a result.  Corelli was in Italy and Purcell in England.  Did they ever get to hear each other's music?  Unlikely.  How things have changed.

I have chosen to "translate" the first 8 measures of Purcell's Festival Rondeau, this time C is Green.

Go HERE to listen to the music.

Here is the top part.

 Second part.

Third part.

4th part

Whole 8 measures of Purcell's Festival Rondeau

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Sorry I promised Mozart for today but he will have to wait for some of his predecessors to take the stage and show their colors.

By the time Arcangelo Correlli was born in 1653 musical notation was an established way of sharing compositions.  Music had gotten more complicated with more rhythmic variation.  Composers by this time are using a greater range of tones instead of confining themselves to two octaves they are delving into many more highs and lows.  In this Sonata by Corelli the top voice alone spans more than an octave.  And the bottom voice has the piece complete three octaves.  You will notice I have faded each note into black.  I decided to do this as when each note is played it fades after it is played.  In yesterday's piece the notes are held until they blend together but in this performance the notes are clearly defined.
To hear the whole piece go here and click on "listen".

top part of first 8 measures of Corelli's Sonatina in A Minor

Bottom Part of 8 measures of Corelli's Sonatina in A Minor

Two parts together

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Color Music

Why does the music look as it does?

You see the sheet music so you know that the first note of the piece is going to be
high D or Light purple so that goes in the center and it will take up two spaces, the next note C will take up two spaces as well, and the next, but then there is a little variation and the C or light red will only take up one space with the B taking up a half space and so it goes.  The amount of space each color takes up is determined by the amount of time each note is played.  So in affect the sheet music allows us to see a color pattern.

The top part is then placed with the bottom by dividing the parts into equal parts.  In a large piece (60" square or more) I used a 3/4 inch strip of color because it seemed to mix in the eye best when standing the usual distance from the work.  In these smaller pieces I have used very small strips of color.  Today's version has smaller strips than yesterdays and I think it works better.  I also like the rests in grey rather than white as it is more of a 'rest' instead of a stop.

rests in grey, smaller divisions of color

I did think these colors were beautiful together.  They were not anything I would have chosen but they really sang.  And so I began to see what other music would look like using this system of translation.

Tomorrow Mozart.

Please pass this along to anyone you think might be interested.

Monday, June 20, 2016


Back in the attic it was time to try a piece of music and see if the colors were beautiful together.  I decided to start with the first music I could find that was written down.  At this time I did not have a computer as it was in the 70's so I had to go to the library and see what I could see.  It was all very interesting and I discovered that although there probably was music in Egypt and Rome there is no recorded history of notation that has been found.  There is however notation from the Greeks. This is one of the most marvelous things about music, that there is notation that allows us to see exactly what notes any given composer has in mind from hundreds of years ago and reproduce the music today.

Here is eight measures of the music I chose and the translation of all the words.  You might like to listen to the music as you read the words.  You'll notice that all the notes are very close in tone, nothing very high or very low and the notes flow into each other without a pause.  This is typical of early music.  It holds together because of the tones, rhythm is not very important.

Compose a tearful melody,
weeping in elegy;
a time for lamentation has come,
a time that steals joys.
At this eclipse sorrow’s night
distorts what we see;
Let sadness rule, for the
cause of sorrow stands in the watchtower.
The star of the Rhine
casts Latium into ruins;
the star tumbles, and the star’s fall
holds the lands in darkness.
The truly Italian region
lies concealed, afraid to be seen,
For darkness is the friend of sin
and crime seeks his old haunt.
O what a definitive demonstration
of the falsity of the world!
Through experience Truth proves
what the world is;
it delights in disasters
and is constant in its inconstancy;
Death, the prince of this terrible law,
rules without pity.

Top notes of Tange (rests are white)

Bottom of Pange

Whole Pange Melos Lacrimosum

I have taken the liberty of softening the edges of the colors a bit to echo the way the music  is performed.

Friday, June 17, 2016


Now that the Plein Air painting experience is over I can get back to the attic where I was thinking about how to paint music.

I had my keyboard ready to go.  The problem that had me thinking so long was how to represent something that happens in time.  Notes touch only the one before they occur and the one after that.  If color interaction is what is going to create color music and there is any relationship between musical vibrations and color vibrations, then the way the colors interact is key.  I began with a scale.  I placed the first note in the middle, a low C or dark red, the second note D or violet I placed around C so that it would only touch C.  The next note E or blue went around D so that it would only touch C and the next note E or blue green. And so it goes up the scale with each note/color touching only the one before it and the one after it.  This way of arranging the colors also forces the eye to the beginning - the center - and out to the edge - the end.

The colors are very close in tone, i.e. the amount of white and or black they contain, but do get slowly lighter as they move up the scale.

Since we are operating in space, not in time, we see the whole scale, not just one color at a time.  We see how all the colors relate to each other.  We don't have to remember the colors as we do when listening to notes.  Anything in time relies on memory.  A representation of any event in space does not.  We can look at it for as long as it pleases us.

The Scale of Red

Monday, June 13, 2016

Plein Air Painting

It was great to see those of you who stopped by yesterday.  They were refreshing moments in my frustrating day.  I didn’t paint a prize winning painting - not even I thought so.   I did learn a lot however and had a delicious mint chocolate chip cone to reward myself for trying.

Things I learned upon reflection in case you want to try your hand at plein air painting.

1. Do not under any circumstances paint in the sun. - I should know this as I have many very dark paintings that were a surprise to me when I brought them in the house.  The painting I finished was not too bad in the sun but had no life at all in normal light.
2.  Always be ready with a spare prepared canvas with no drawing on it so you can paint anywhere.  I was very well prepared for two sites both of which turned out to be impossible because of either sun, wind or a car in the way.
3.  Have everything nailed down in some way.  Most of my frustration had to do with being covered in oil paint a lot of the time as my palette kept blowing onto everything.
4.  Only enter competitions if you are feeling masochistic....or the prizes are really big!

The painting below is not the one I completed yesterday (that one is not dry yet) but another from Chestnut Hill that I painted last week.
Now I think the face in the window is me looking out on Germantown Avenue wondering why those people are out there on the street struggling with heat, wind and oil paint.

Nancy Herman
9" x 12"
oil on canvas board

Saturday, June 11, 2016


Nancy Herman
9" x 12"
oil on canvas board

Those who deliver our packages and our mail are an important part of every day that we can take for granted.  This guy is the star of the show.

Another painting from Chestnut Hill completed this week in preparation for the Plein Air Festival tomorrow.  Check out the Festival tomorrow from 10:00 to 3:00 all up and down Germantown Avenue with some special events and 40 artists trying desperately to finish a canvas.  I'm going to be working on a larger than usual piece just to keep things interesting.  I'm off today to buy some big brushes.

Friday, June 10, 2016


Nancy Herman
oil on stretched canvas
20" x 16"

This is one of the very old buildings to be found on Germantown Avenue in the heart of Chestnut Hill.  It is on the 8400 block on the East side of the street.  I will be painting on the West side this Sunday from 10:00 to 3:00 as part of the Plein Air Festival.  Come on out and watch artists trying to finish a painting in 5 hours while dodging sun, wind, cars, and people kibitzing.  Not for the faint of heart!

Thursday, June 9, 2016


Last you heard from me I was in the attic thinking about how to paint music.  Well for literary purposes I am still thinking about that.
In the mean time I have been getting ready for the Plein Air Festival in Chestnut Hill by painting scenes from the part of Germantown Avenue that I am assigned.  It is the stretch opposite Graver's Lane Gallery so I am in luck as I can duck in there to get cool if it is a scorcher.
The event will take place next Sunday from 10:00 to 3:00.  This is the rain date.  Not sure if there will be another rain date if it rains on Sunday.

Here is one of the paintings I have been working on to get ready for the big day.

Nancy Herman
9" x 12"
oil on canvas board