The Primal Art

© Frederick Sommer

© Frederick Sommer

“Picasso doesn’t make me feel like dancing,” that was the sum of my arguement to my friend George. We were having lunch one autumn afternoon in November and our always fascinating man talk turned to the subject of art, in particular, which is more of a primal, base art, Music or photography. George is a musician working in a photo studio and I am a photographer whose avocation is music. Our conversation wasn’t really an argument because George did not take a side. I expounded on the subject a little and he commented on my statements.

Music is a human universal. Every culture that we know of having existed has had some form of a music tradition. Most humans have a physical reaction to music, chills or a desire for movement or touch. According to researchers there is an actual physical connection between sound and touch! Although we can have some emotional response to a painting or a photograph it is not quite the same. The painting sets certain associations going in your mind; a certain experience, specific to you is engaged in your memory and that experience has an emotion associated with it. This is similar to how an actor might conjure up emotions when playing a part. It is not a purely physiological response as is the response to music.

This past Christmas one of the wonderful gifts I received was the “Lost On The River” CD. I had seen the documentary on Showtime and loved the music. The project was a recording of a stash of lost Bob Dylan lyrics. The group of musicians gathered together by T. Bone Burnett (what a musical genius) created music to accompany the lyrics. The film was a documentation of the writing and recording process. There was one song at the end that hit me like a ton of feathers! At one point the film cuts quickly to Marcus Mumford singing in front of a microphone, he is in profile and the intensity of his singing and emotion was clearly visible.  I am listening to the song as I write these words and that simple 4 note repeating riff mainly heard on  Rhiannon Giddens’ violin – ping, ping, ting, ping just keeps getting a hold of me – physically. 

Well, I hope you received some music this past Holiday season. If you didn’t go out and get some. Buy a CD or visit some friends and create a little music of your own.

Happy New Year everyone.

Update: Here is the video to the song I reference above:


2 thoughts on “The Primal Art

    • Thanks for the nice comment. Yes, I was always a fan of the mid 20th century photographers of the Equivalence tradition. Frederick Sommer was one of the more influential members of Minor White’s circle.

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