Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Abstract Landscape Painter.  Rural Dweller.  Lover of Modernist Art and Design.

Einstein On The Beach

The first piece of music that I ever heard by the composer Philip Glass was an excerpt from his 1976 opera “Einstein On The Beach”.  It seemed to consist of multi-layered voices counting, chanting and reciting.  I found it fascinating.  It was strange and mesmerising and I liked it.  I also liked the intriguing title of the opera.  Why call it that?

I later discovered that these words stem from a real event which occurred in 1933, when Albert Einstein was on his way to a new life in America, in order to escape the rising anti-semitism in Germany.  En route he was given refuge by an eccentric English MP called Oliver Locker-Lampson. Commander Locker-Lampson offered him a place to stay in the East Anglian countryside.  The accommodation was an isolated hut on Roughton Heath on the North Norfolk coast.  There are old black and white photographs of the physicist standing near to a roughly hewn cabin.  Apparently no-one knows its exact location today.

I’ve always found this idea fascinating - that the great scientist and twentieth century thinker should find himself in solitude in this remote corner of England.  This coastline is a part of my own family history and I am particularly fond of it.  I like to think of him there, gazing out to sea and not only working on his theories but also looking back over his life and wondering what lay ahead - not just for him, but for the world as a whole.

My appreciation of the music of Philip Glass has grown since that first discovery.  I have listened to it countless times over years as I have worked.  I love his score for the soundtrack to “The Hours” and particularly his piano music.  I recently bought “Glass Piano” and “Opening” by Bruce Brubaker.  My purchases reminded me again of the strange story of the scientist and his little Norfolk hut, which led me to produce a painting in response.  I hope that I have created a harmonious and peaceful work which conveys the idea of contemplative solitude.

This is a theme that has inspired me before and I am sure that it is one to which I will return.  The repetition and reinterpretation of stories and ideas has run through my work over the years.  Perhaps this is part of the appeal of this particular composer’s music for me.

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/glass-piano/id983898949  "Glass Piano"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fw0vjWe-nc  “Opening”, played by Bruce Brubaker 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b065tqz1  BBC Radio Four, “Philip Glass: Taxi Driver”

All text & images ©2015 Carol Saunderson