Hello English language learners and friends of Blue Noun English Language School in Scotland. As part of our, Learn English and Art blog series, we are discussing the Fermata Festival – a music festival & art exhibition by ChamberMusicBox, which presented 100+ artworks produced by more than 40 classical musicians during British Lockdown – when musicians were unable to perform live to the public.
Fermata was an unusual, successful festival: a celebration of creativity, of regaining live performance and of healing.
Do Artists Make Good Musicians? And Musicians Good Artists?
I’m always fascinated by the intersection of art and music – particularly each discipline’s rules and limits. In my own art practice, I’ve worked with musicians and music scores, records and turntables and been a touring member of an experimental music label (Diskono).
One Future Sonic Music Festival event at the Corn Exchange in Manchester (1999) found me leaning over the balcony, the playing arm of the record-player way below me on a long length of thread, my puppet master gesturing adding noises to the performance happening on stage.
To my surprise, my contribution was taken quite seriously and there was real tension in the room. A violinist told me afterwards that she’d loved it. When I later saw her perform – she was amazingly skilled, and I was baffled by what she had found to admire in my own attempt at sound scuplture/performance.
I’m not a musician. Was it possible that as a trained visual artist I had something of worth to contribute to music? More lately I’ve thought not, as there’s so much practice and training that goes into making music. (I’m frankly astonished that I ever had the brass neck to do such a thing).
However, I’m reconsidering a bit since I learned about the artworks in the Fermata Festival. I loved the freshness of the concept. Both that it’s a curious experiment in art and that it’s a solution. Our pandemic has created epic problems alongside crushing mundanity. Positive, proactive solutions are what will heal us.
Like music, visual art also has the requirements for training, skills and practice and rules to be understood before they can be broken and yet, as we will discover here, it also turns out that musicians can be very good at visual art (and if sales are a measure, successful too).
Fermata: a pause of unspecified length on a note or rest.
About the ChamberMusicBox collective
ChamberMusicBox was founded in 2016 when a group of leading international musicians came together from across Europe to perform a series of chamber music concerts in London.
Its Artistic Directors, violinist Yuri Kalnits and cellist Julia Morneweg, had a vision to promote mutual respect and empathy in the community through music-making of rare passion and generosity, and for audiences to be part of that shared experience.
With countless appearances on the big international stages, dozens of prizes at some of the world’s most prestigious competitions, this ever-growing community of outstanding European musicians thrives on creating projects and concert programmes as diverse as they are unique.
ChamberMusicBox website, 2021
About Fermata Festival | ‘When concert halls were silent’
Fermata Festival was timed with the reopening of performance venues in England after months of closure due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Running from June 25th- 28th, it was a weekend-long celebration of music and visual art, featuring four live concerts by internationally renowned artists which accompanied the exhibition of artworks created by classical musicians during the Covid-19 pandemic ‘fermata’ (more commonly known here as lockdown).
The exhibition was curated by gallery owner Alan Kluckow (Alan Kluckow Fine Art & Amadè Classical) a consultant/expert of both contemporary art and contemporary and classical music.
Fermata Festival was a part of the 2021 Kensington and Chelsea Art Week.
The event opened with a pre-concert panel discussion and Q&A, with Alan Kluckow and exhibition artists Ruth Waterman, Caroline Bordignon and Simon Baggs. It was chaired by pianist and painter Roger Vignoles.
All the work in this exhibition was for sale. After exhibition costs,all the money went directly to the artist musicians. A total of £7000 was raised.
One Hundred Days of Painting Music | The Festival’s Inspiration
Julia told me the Festival’s inspiration is Kirsty Matheson: a double-bassist from Glasgow who, back in February started a project called “100 Days of Music as Art”.
For 100 days she would pick a piece of music and paint her interpretation of it. She would reveal the result at 8pm every night on Instagram. It began as a way to get through lockdown, but it quickly snowballed and there was soon a scramble every evening by her followers and fans to buy that day’s artwork. (We could say they sold like hotcakes).
“February 1st 2021 I began an ambitious project to paint a painting every day based on a different piece of music. As a musician this concept has fascinated me for a long time. Back in High School, when I was contemplating a career in music or art, I painted a large painting of a Debussy piano piece a friend played in a concert. When the pandemic hit and I lost all my freelance playing work and concerts fell silent, I found listening to orchestral music too painful to bear. This project has helped me back to listening and loving all this music. I have heard from others that it has done the same for them. This means so much.”
Kirsty Matheson, on her personal website (link below).
Do Musical Talents Directly Translate into Art?
Can we look at a composer’s paintings and decide they are especially creative? Or a percussionist’s and see confidence, rhythm and boldness? How does a musician used to performing in a group, being led by the actions of others even begin to start creating on a blank canvas? (It’s hard enough for practiced artists).
I think it is remarkable that the painting styles are so very different from each other. Outside of notions like skill, judgement and perfectionism, I’m not sure their musical skill brings tangible qualities. I particularly like the dreamy quality many of the artworks have.
Learn English and Art | Practice Exercise
This list is taken from a very good page of descriptive vocabulary words and terms about music, written for English language learners – found here.
Which ones do you think can also be applied to painting?
ChamberMusicBox is currently organising a second Fermata Festival, to take place in Glasgow.
Make sure you sign up to their mailing list to find out more.
Thank you Julia Morneweg for your permission and help with writing this blog.
We cover a broad range of topics in our language school blogs – some a lighthearted look at Scotland, others an in-depth look at art and culture. There’s something for everyone.
If you’ve liked this blog, you might want to read another with a Learn English and Art theme.
Artist and musician, Johanna McWeeney (one of the selected Fermata artists) discusses the common ground between words and images within her art practice.
Your Blue Noun English Language Challenge is:
What adjectives can be used to describe both art and music?
Let’s collect them all here in the Blue Noun blog comments. Use them in a sentence if you would like, and add CP (correct please and we’ll correct any language errors in them.