mondrian variations

Éva Polgár and Sándor Vály / Mondrian Variations  Piano and Samplerworks / Ektro Recors 2012


The following disc material is the second part of an audiovisual artistic project which I began in 2003, based on my observations of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s (1525-1569) paintings at the Prado museum in Madrid.

Looking at his works, a perception came intuitally into my mind.That is, Bruegel’s visual compositions mimic the rules of musical compositions. If that were true, it might open a possibility for transporting a painting into the spheres of music. My work has since evolved on the grounds of this idea and observation. Its goal, at the same time, was to illuminate the comparative methods of creation in music and the visual arts. With this manner of approach, I have attempted to make Bruegel’s oeuvre speak through music.

Being a visual artist, the project invited me to start a fascinating adventure. A painting, regardless of it representing a school or –”ism”, is a condensation in every instance. A rigid picture is where the artist essays to describe a story, a situation, an idea, a feeling. This composition he tries to express on the angular canvas with the tools of either time or space – or both at the same time.

Bruegel’s paintings were still an easy material to work with. I went back to the Gothic arts, as that was one of the substantial points in the uplifting of European art, and thinking. For this reason, it also became a starting point of my work on Bruegel’s paintings.

Because of the novel use of perspective, more timelines appeared simultaneously in the Gothic arts. Breaking through the space, the Gothic perspective could include more layers of time, these emerged then, for the first time in Western art history. This era was the birth of time perspective. The past and present time perspectives took the observer, for the first time, into a space and made him a part of it. It was not only the painting’s structure that changed, caused by the new division of the space, but its mythology as well. At that instant, the internal and external, the public and private got separated from each other, altering the World scene, and so leading to a reorganization of time and space. The norm of using a space became different, because of the possibilities of using multiple time throughout the space. An elaborate time structure evolved in the work, turning it into a long series of episodes of events happening at different times (see, for instance, the Calvary pictures).

In my case, this was exactly what I was interested in: for is it possible to open up musically the perspective of the time, the composition, the space, the theme of the picture? Is it possible to reveal the musical content of Bruegel’s concentrated series of events using his own composition methods, so as to make them audible?

What does a painting sound like? Is there really a bridge between the visual and musical languages? Is music able to interpret a visual work, and yet still carry the same emotional experience? How can music express in time and space a piece of visual art that is compressed in a single instant?

Due to my thoughts above, I had several difficulties thoughout my work on the project. I was in need of a pianist, who has an empathy, an affinity, to compose and organize the scores. I asked pianist Nikoletta Máté for her collaboration. My work’s central conflict was the basic idea itself. We were not composing music inspired by an art work as in the case of Pictures of an Exhibition by Mussorgsky. Our score was derived directly from the painting with strict rules, since the notes were already given. The notes could not be touched and moved in favor of a more pleasant sound. Altering them would lead to the distortion of the original painting. Alternatives could be only given by means of musical signs, such as treble clef, bass clef, or key signatures, octave changes, and accidentals respectively. Accidentals offered the freedom of playing certain pitches a half note higher or lower, but nothing more.

This was the compositional part of the project, but in the museum I had another important perception that directed my attention towards metaphysics. During the working process, this perception turned out to be the most relevant question of the project.

In case the transposition would succeed and music would born from a painting, how should I relate to the cognition? How much was Bruegel aware of these hidden qualities? Sensitive question, but the major task was not to prove this consciousness. I was interested in the occult knowledge, in the intuition, in the skill of instinctive anticipation that adds to a work of an artist. Furthermore, that is indispensable for the work of an artist. Intuition: how conscious, or unconscious it is, has no importance for me.

A friend of mine, Károly Ludvigh, who has supported my project both intellectually and financially from the very beginning, contemplated about intuition the following way:

„The word intuition has Latin origins.  Its first syllable ”In” means in. Latin origin word as well: Tueor, tueri =  to see, to look at, to contemplate; to keep an eye on something, to observe, to pay attention, to screen, to protect, to maintain;  to support, to feed, to nurture. Consequently, intuition is a instinctive observation, paying attention. The result of its persistent practice is the recognition of something, what – potentially – existed already before.

So, to see, to look at. But with the prefix in: to look into, to get an insight into something. Where to look into? Question referring to a place, a space. In other words intuition is space observation, space introspection. But what kind of place? Since its basis is instinctiveness one can conclude apparently only a type of cosmic, spiritual space, where information is stored – nutriment, accordingly.

That is to say, entrance into a space with nutriment noted by mere observation, looking. (This – on the margin – is the essence of meditation, of trance.) This is the intuition. A mental stage that is able to identify information. A mental stage that is qualified to be a nutriment and that is protected, shielded, maintained by a series of codes at one given instance: insight

The Bruegel picture-music suggests, that the world is rich in such information. However, this information is not accessible for the rational, left brain logic. The left brain thinking strives for prohibiting the perception of such kind of information, while the right brain thinking is open for it.

Bruegel decoded the ether and created new codes. The solution of the new codes he closed into  enigma-like oil paintings. As he would work with synesthesia.

The master worked of course with material, with tender, colored clay. Although, he hardly knew, that he can thank the light’s physical waves for the color. Waves or vibrancy, that made him excited day by day. He hardly knew, that according to the ancient lifeless but still living rules of Synesthesia, all of his paintings are sounds fixed in picture. In colors accumulated music-time.

The pieces were finally ready in 2006. To my surprise, it did not only work, but once the works were decoded, the secret came to the surface as well. One of the great examples is the Procession to Calvary. Here Jesus, who is almost lost in the mass of people in the cenre of the painting by the cross of the two diagonals, appears only one single time represented by a high ”C” in the score. In case, the spectator would not find the figure of Jesus with his first look, he definitely shouts for his presence in the music. The listener cannot miss this moment while listening to the piece.

I could list the surprising moments endlessly. But after all, this CD material is not related to Bruegel, but to Mondrian. For this reason, I only attempted to note as much about Bruegel as it is necessary for the introduction of the Mondrian Variations and for the understanding of its thematic.


In 2003 an other thing happened as well, to which I did pay much attention at that time. Although, time proved, that things come on surface of consciousness, when it is time for them to do so. The same day of visiting the museum Prado, I saw another piece of art in the halls of Museum Reina Sofia, located close to Prado. It was the work of Piet Mondrian. Apparently, I was not able to recognize the anthology between the two artists. It was only towards the end of my project related to the paintings of Bruegel, when a feeling possessed me. That is, Mondrian’s oeuvre hides similar secrets to his predecessor’s paintings.

The discovery lead to my next project on Piet Mondrian’s art together with pianist Éva Polgár in 2009. Éva took responsibility for composing and enlarging the scores, and interpreting the piano part of the final works.

We owned already the starting method of the composition process. It was the same as we had employed for Bruegel. However, it became quickly evident that we could use this method solely for the first paintings Composition in Line 1916 – 1917 and Composition No.10 in Black and White [Pier and the Ocean, 1915 ]. Since in the continuation Mondrian was using colors, space and rhythms, the same approach did not work with his later paintings. So, the technique had to be redefined. We had to proceed from colors and the size of spaces occupied by colors. New possibilities were opened up by Composition with Grid 8. 1919. By this work, the number and rhythm of variations of three colors – blue, red and orange – as well as the spaces’ same time unite directed us toward the more elaborate pieces: Broadway Boogie Woogie, Victory Boogie Woogie, New York City 1.

The Mondrian Variations was finally finished after three years. Leaving behind the figural paintings before 1913/14, we selected seven works in chronological order. With this selection, we took under consideration the choice of such pieces of Piet Mondrian’s entire oeuvre that could best summarize and represent the artist’s different periods. We split the material for three parts:

Laren – Blaricum 1915-1919 

01. Pier and Ocean (Comp.No.10 in Black and White) 1915

02. Composition with line 1917


Paris 1919-38

03.Composition with Grid 8, 1919

04.Composition with Yellow, Blue, Black and Grey, 1921


London – New York 1938-1944

05, New York City (unfinished) 1941

06. Broadway Boogie Woogie, 1942/1943

07. Victory Boogie Woogie (unfinished) 1942/1944

Finally.  I do not wish to make a connection between my artistic identity and thoughts about arts with those of Mondrian’s ideas and philosophy. They do not meet in every case. Rather not – then yes. Yet I allude to Piet Mondrian in the validity of our common work with Éva Polgár, in the authority of the completion of the Mondrian Variations, and in the support of his paintings transposed into music.

The initial unity was the principle of Mondrian’s art theory. This unity came to realization in the harmony of opposite polars, in the completeness of masculine and feminine elements.

Plato, going back to his androgyn myth and his theosophical philosophy of evolution, was seeking the true felicity in the complete harmony of the male and female principles.

In his system, the feminine element is static, horizontal, and material while the masculine is vertical and spiritual. Negative and positive poles magnetize each other. In the human, planetary life the two genders separated, and as its resolution, the original peace and harmony split. However, there exist human beings who are able to unify the duality again. They are the artists.

Based on this thought – whoever the artist might be – he obviously desires to translate and define these principles’ intention for the union and harmony of his own picture. I do it the same way. Although, being a visual artist, I take the liberty to point out that music expresses best the unique experience of the union of these principles. Music is the field, where human soul can sense the most of dissolution and union of genuses. This is the eroticism of music.

It is an addition to the creation of Mondrian Variations, that it reflects the collaboration of a women and a man. Enjoy listening to the ancient unity of this harmony of feminine and masculine power!

Sándor Vály




As his Madrid visit was fateful for my artist partner Sándor Vály in 2003, as the paintings of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Piet Mondrian influenced him, so think I back to the moment when Sándor tied my eyes with a black textile while playing The Blinds, the last piece of the Bruegel compositions. The keys darkened on the keyboard and, giving myself to the unknown, I finished the premier of Bruegel Variations ”blind”.

When I decided to participate in the composition process of Mondrian Variations, once again I found myself in unknown territory. It was Sándor this time again, who opened the doors for me to a new type of creativity.

It was an honorific challenge to work on Mondrian’s paintings. I found the mission ahead of me extremely exciting. The colors, the squares in all kinds of sizes, the crosses of the lines? It was impossible to get a musical meaning in a conventional frame of composition. From Mondrian’s writings it becomes apparent that he himself did not attempt to reflect the classic essences of music on his own canvases. Contrarywise, he refined the meaning of sound and melody. The Dutch painter was deeply interested in musical questions. Every painting of his is full of live rhythm, sound, city noise, pulsation. Not surprisingly, New York composers of the 1950’s considered Mondrian’s artistry as a precedent. It might not be an accident either, that composers Morton Feldman, Earle Brown and John Cage were the pioneers of new musical esthetics.

Extending my performer qualities, this recognition helped me to think more like a composer or a creator. The method I was working with did not exist before. Just as my artist partner, I was partly relying upon my intuition besides any rational solution. I was experimenting. For instance, I painted my nails in blue, yellow and red and I applied rosin on the shoe ties instead of violin bows,  and gouged sounds from the piano strings by pulling the ties up and down around them. I tried countless solutions on the piano. As I was proceeding with the project, the unusual effects lead me towards a more abstract utterance, leading to my abandoning the keyboard almost entirely.

I am glad to have the opportunity to share my part of composition process with you; I was collaborating in the creation of Mondrian Variations with.

The Compositional Approach

The partiture for Bruegel Variations was made by pianist Nikoletta Máté. Sándor Vály introduced me the composition details with detailed precision. It helped our collaboration in the musical metamorphosis of the seven selected Mondrian paintings.

The creative process split into two parts. It was I who first tried to explore and order the musical content to Mondrian’s paintings. The sound recordings of the piano pieces that have formed on the music sheet served as the musical raw material for Sándor. The works arrived at final version in his care. Some of the original lines were sampled and instruments were added to complete each piece. Together with the video animation, the music sometimes evolved a wholly new character. In parallel with the change of Mondrian’s artistic style over the years, our method was built always on the previous compositional approaches, but at the same time it was constantly changing and producing new solutions.

The first two pieces of Mondrian Variations – Pier and Ocean (Composition No.10 in Black and White) 1915 and Composition with line 1917– follow the most faithfully the musical transformation of the Bruegel compositions. The ending and cross points of the paintings’ black lines were marked with dots by Sándor on the computer. Fading out the original work, the vibrant set of black dots remained at the front of the blank background alone. By adding the five-line music grand staff, the dots became note heads. I ordered the appropriate rhythms to the appropriate notes and harmonies in proportion to the distance between the note heads as they appeared on the music sheet. The outcome was a beautiful sonority in both pieces. Pier and Ocean especially reflects the meditative atmosphere of the the title and preserves the original piano part completely. Only high and low strings join the piano’s melody in this piece. Besides string instruments, the light texture of Composition with Line 1917 was revived with playful combinations of flashes of the oboe, and of the lively organ part in the second section and furthermore in the altered rhythms in the piano.

Pier and Ocean 1914 (partiture)

Pier and Ocean 1914 (partiture)

The works of the next two artistic periods – Paris 1919-38 and London/New York 1938-1944 – are color compositions. For this reason, we first had to decide according to which rules we would identify the colors appearing on the paintings with pitches. To abstract from the synesthesia theories, we developed our own method that is based on the consoldiation of the twelve united color circle and the twelve step music circle of fifth intervals.

The color squares of Composition with Grid 8, 1919 get their musical equivalents by using our new system: Red = E, Orange = D, Blue = G sharp (marked as A flat on the circle of fifths). Since the grid contains same size of squares, I played the melody of color-sounds in a stable beat, reading the lines from left to right, proceeding from top to bottom, row by row. An interesting feature of the introduction is where one can hear the ”E” strikes first alone, suspended by rests according to the spacing between the notes. ”G#” connects in later on, and the one line melody completed by ”D” comes last. The music material consisting of 128 notes and 32 measures, and runs over the entire piece like an ostinato, which becomes richer in harmony with the organ, wind section, and string instruments.

The next piece I focused on after the Grid was Broadway Boogie Woogie, 1941/1942. Ignoring the chronological order, and taking a leap further from the seemingly obvious reading of the Grid, this painting turned out to be the key for the next works. The notes – except grey – were determined the same way as previously, based on the parallel relation of the color circle and the circle of fifths. In order to pitch grey on the keyboard, I used Mondrian’s music theory as my basis; that strongly relates to the master’s unity-duality theory. Not exclusively the vertical and horizontal lines, the masculine and feminine nature, but also – using the words of Mondrian – the ”color – non color” contrary pair came to the front in Broadway Boogie Woogie as well. In these sets (color vs. non-color) the color scale analogous to the circle of the fifths belongs to a separate category than the white, grey, black ”non-colors”. In the music white, grey and black colors are defined as burr sounds, while color-sounds are actual pitches on the keyboard. Since grey is the complementary color of orange, I prepared the piano D string on three octaves with a plastic guitar pick. The sounding note’s distortion added a new character to the musical basic material, wherein lies the melody of the horizontal and vertical color bands. The note lengths correspond with the millimeter proportions of the colors. These ratios, close to the elaborated steps of a boogie-woogie dance choreography, resulted in extremely interesting rhythm formulas. Further novelties on Sándor’s side are  the metronome basis as well as the choir, so making the final piece fantastically diverse and exciting.

Broadway Boogie Woogie, 1942/1943

Victory Boogie Woogie (unfinished) 1942/1944 was for me the most complex piece of the series. First, I divided the painting in three large, then more smaller, color bands; so I could get units and information I could work with. In my working process, I borrowed some of Morton Feldman’s  ideas from his graphic scores. I split the bands in three horizontal parts, that mark three different registers of sound. From top to the bottom: soprano, alt, and tenor. Having completed this, I placed a grid on the entire band, which helped me to trace the measures of the music. The colors, spread out all over in the squares, weld into a large scale and varied rhythm melody. This result, together with the dark tone of the brasses and the bitter feel of the prepared notes, heightened an unexpected side of Victory: Victory, but for what price? The dates of the original painting sign dates of Second World War.

Victory Boogie Woogie (unfinished) 1942/1944 (partiture)

Victory Boogie Woogie (unfinished) 1942/1944 (partiture)

Composition with Yellow, Blue, Black and Grey, 1921, and New York City (unfinished) 1941 came at the end of the creative project. Although these paintings originate from two different artistic periods of Mondrian, from composer’s perspective both works require a similar approach. I have not used notation for either of the compositions and I abandoned the keyboard almost entirely. Instead of playing on the keyboard, I experimented in the body of the piano. I created sound on the strings with a guitar pick and with my nails. Specifically in Composition with Yellow, Blue, Black and Grey, 1921, I pulled a coin through the lowest strings of the instrument, picturing the presence of the black lines on the canvas. A similar feature in both works is the role switch of the sampler and the piano. In these pieces the sampler part is more dominant then the piano. When I reached New York City (unfinished) 1941, which is the last track on the CD, the counting appears as a unique musical effect. The idea was to insert counting in the music, and is related to one of my trial sound files, where I counted the meter aloud while playing rhythms on the piano. Towards the end of the piece the common pulsation of the marimbas and the counting empty into a frenetic finale that brings the music streams of our time onto the surface.

Out of the seven variations, it is perhaps New York City (unfinished) 1941, that most strongly expresses the actuality and timelessness of Mondrian’s art. It is present today and in the past, and it will be present in the future, as well. May I recommend Mondrian Variations as an imaginary journey through time to you?

To join with Sándor in his closing words: ”I wish you pleasant moments of music listening!”

Éva Polgár



Mondrian Variations – Concert in Pori art Museum, Finland  2012


Mondrian Variations – Composition with Grid 8. 1919 – Music: Éva Polgár and Sándor Vály  – Film by Sándor Vály 2012


Broadway Boogie Woogie 1943

Broadway Boogie Woogie 1943 partiture


Broadway Boogie Woogie 1943 partiture


Mondrian Variations – Broadway Boogie Woogie 1943 – Music: Éva Polgár  and Sándor Vály – Film by Sándor Vály 2011


Pier and the Ocean 1915

Pier and the Ocean 1915 partiture


Pier and the Ocean –  Dancer: Pia Karaspuro


Mondrian Variations – Pier and the Ocean 1915 – Music: Éva Polgár and Sándor Vály  Dancer / Pia Karaspuro  Film by S. Vály


Victory Boogie Woogie 1942-43

Victory Boogie Woogie film


Victory Boogie Woogie patitures


Mondrian Variations – Victory Boogie Woogie 1942-43  – Music: Éva Polgár and Sándor Vály


Composition with Yellow, Blue, Black and Grey  1921

Composition with Yellow, Blue, Black and Grey partiture



Composition with Yellow, Blue, Black and Grey – Éva Polgár


Mondrian Variations – Composition with Yellow, Blue, Black and Grey  1921 – Music: Éva Polgár and Sándor Vály


New York City I. 1944

New York City 1 partiture


New York City 1 Dancer: Pia Karaspuro


Mondrian Variations – New York City 1 1944 – Music: Éva Polgár and Sándor Vály Dancer / Pia Karaspuro  Film by Sándor Vály


Composition with Lines 1917 part II.

Dancer: Loie Fuller


Composition with Lines 1917 part II. partiture


Mondrian Variations – Composition with Lines 1917 part II. – Music: Éva Polgár  and  Sándor Vály – Film by Sándor Vály




Mondrian Variations, Porin Taidemuseon MEDIApiste, 27. toukokuuta saakka.

Porin Taidemuseon MEDIApisteessä vastikään avautunut Sándor Vályn audiovisuaalisen taideprojektin toinen osa tarjoaa mielenkiintoisen meditaatiomatkan abstraktioita vierastavillekin näyttelykävijöille. Piet Mondrianin maalausten musiikillisen ulottuvuuden mahdollista koodistoa availevat teokset luovat uutta syvyyttä alkuperäisen tekijän salaperäiseen geometriaan. Vály on yhdessä pianotaiteilija Éva Polgárin kanssa laatinut moniaistisen kokemuksen – tavan tulkita visuaalista sävelten keinoin. Lopputulemana kunnianhimoisesta kokeilusta syntyy ääni- ja kuvaviestien maailma – produktio, jonka rytmiikka uskottavalla tavalla seurailee seinille heijastettua värikartastoa ja toisaalla väreilee tanssivan hahmon ajattomissa liikeradoissa.

Hallinpuoleisen Street Artin sykkeestä tähän tilaan ei ehkä kannata astua – ainakaan ohimennen pistäytyen. Meditaatioretki synestesian värittämän taidekokemuksen pariin nautittaneen parhaillaan sellaisenaan ja ajan kanssa: Erikseen tilan tuomista ärsykkeistä, estoisia ennakkoajatuksia vailla. Vain Vályn sovittamiin saumattomiin sopusointuihin hiljalleen liukuen. Kati Heljakka    5.4.2012  Satakunnan kansa

Mondrian Variations – Exhibition, Pori art Museum, Finland 2012



Sándor Vály on taiteilija, joka muuntaa kuvia musiikiksi. Porin taidemuseossa on saatu helmikuusta asti ihmetellä, miten Pieter Bruegelin maalaus muuttuu sävellyksen partituuriksi ja lopulta musiikiksi. Taulussa olevien hahmojen paikat muuttuvat nuottien paikoiksi. Maalaus katoaa taustalta, ja tilalle piirtyy nuottiviivasto.

Nyt Bruegel Variationsinkorvaa jatkoprojekti Mondrian Variations. Miten tekoprosessi elää, kun esittävän taiteen sijaan lähdemateriaalina onkin Piet Mondrianin abstrakti taide? – Tämä maalaus on Broadway Boogie Woogie, ja tässä on sen pohjalta tehty partituuri. Jokaista väriä vastaa yksi äänenkorkeus – keltaista C, punaista E, sinistä Gis ja niin edelleen. Kuviointi määrittää rytmiä ja sitä, kuinka pitkään äänet soivat, Vály selittää. Mielenkiintoinen havainto on se, että Mondrianin modernin kuvataiteen pohjalta syntynyt musiikki muistuttaa modernien säveltäjien teoksia. Vály kertoo lopputuloksen tuovan mieleen Steve Reichin , Philip Glassin ja John Cagen sävellysten sävyjä. Kiinnostava juonne liittyy Victory Boogie Woogie-maalaukseen, jonka Mondrian maalasi toisen maailmansodan aikana kuvaamaan liittoutuneiden tulevaa voittoa. – Maalauksen pohjalta syntyneestä kappaleesta tuli aika uhkaava, eikä siinä kuulu millään tavalla voiton riemu. Minulle tuli mieleen kysymys: saavutettiin voitto, mutta millä hinnalla? Voitto ei voi olla pelkkää riemua, kun kymmeniä miljoonia ihmisiä on kuollut sodassa.

Mondrian Variations -projektissa syntynyt musiikki ilmestyy levynä ja esitetään elävänä toukokuussa. Levyn julkaisee porilainen Ektro Records, Circle-muusikko Jussi Lehtisalon pyörittämä levy-yhtiö.– Jussi oli paljon aikaisemmin ihastunut minun vuosina 1989–2000 rakentamaani Talazüek-projektiin. Esiinnyin vuosi sitten Museoiden yössä, ja silloin tutustuin Jussiin. Kun hän kuuli nimeni, hän kysyi, olenko tämä sama tyyppi. Kun kerroin Jussille Mondrian Variationsinidean, hän sanoi, että häntä kiinnostaa ehdottomasti julkaista levy. Tämä on hieno juttu, kun tuntee Jussin julkaisuskaalan laajuuden.– Konsertissa esitämme levyn materiaalin, mutta pikkuisen muutettuna. Éva Polgár soittaa pianoa. Minä nappaan Évan soittoa ja alan sämplätä ja muokata sitä, mutta alkuperäistä rakennetta kunnioittaen. Hän soittaa sitä, mikä tulee suoraan taulusta, minä soitan koneilla päälle, Vály kuvailee. – Minä olen kuvataiteilija, joka sattuu soittamaan musiikkia. Éva on täysin ammattilainen.

Vály aikoo jatkaa visuaalisen maailman muuntamista musiikilliseen muotoon. – En halua enää tulkita taiteilijoita, koska löysin jo toimivan esimerkin sekä modernin että vanhan taiteen puolelta. Sen sijaan minulla on kaksi muuta ideaa, jotka haluan toteuttaa, Vály kertoo. – Ensimmäinen on ihmisen hermostorata, toinen on Linnunrata. Jälkimmäisestä tulee kuitenkin liian pitkä partituuri, sillä rakenne muuttuu loputtomasti, kun liikutaan Linnunradan sisällä. Haluan kuitenkin esittää tämän ideana, ja alkusoitto tulee kyllä.

Sándor Vályn Mondrian Variations -näyttely avataan Porin taidemuseon mediapisteessä perjantaina.Teoksen musiikki kantaesitetään elävänä 27. toukokuuta. Samalla julkistetaan Mondrian Variations -levy.

Mikko I. Elo   30.04.2012  Satakunnan kansa

Mondrian Variations – Exhibition, Pori art Museum, Finland 2012


POLGAR, EVA AND SANDOR VALY Mondrian Variations: Piano and Samplerworks (Ektro)

Using visual artworks as a means of musical composition often sounds better in theory than in practice. Take the recent book and cd of Baudouin de Jaer’s solo violin interpretations of the musical motifs in Adolf Wolfli’s cosmological drawings where the audible results were less dazzling than the images would suggest. But not so in this latest experiment from conceptual composers Eve Polgar and Sandor Valy who turn the nonrepresentational paintings of Dutch modernist Piet Mondrian into beautifully vibrant minimalist scores. Mondrian, who started out as a representational painter, became increasingly interested in a process of reduction from nature into essential forms that soon evolved away from any overt natural reference. Most famous for his painting of bold black lines on white grounds and geometric forms in primary colors, and their perhaps musically influenced titles (Broadway Boogie Woogie!), it’s not hard to see a correlation of sound and vision in his work.

There is an interesting booklet that comes in the slipcase with this, detailing the process of how the pieces were composed to which paintings, where we also learned that this is not the first time the composers have worked in this manner. They previously worked out scores based on paintings by Breugel and there are cool pictures of how they designed scores based on how the orientation of the heads of peasants in Breugel’s paintings followed a kind of musical order. Would like to see how that turned out musically, but getting back to the Mondrian Variations, the music starts out with repetitive solo piano figures that have a simple but idiosyncratic repetitive quality with sudden pauses that seem to follow a precise structure. With each composition, we’re introduced to something new sonically through computer programs and samplers: an organ, pitched string modulations, then some minimal percussive rhythms until the pieces grow more epic in scope with choral like sounds, vocal counting of the odd tempos and blocks of interweaving rhythms. Of course, the musical corollary of this is Steve Reich and Philip Glass, but the music feels somehow different as if Polgar and Valy were reaching the same place through a completely different approach. Regardless of the process, the music is engaging and a delight to listen to. An extraordinary release on Circle’s Ektro label that comes highly recommended!

Aquarius records



Piano and Samplerworks (Ektro Records)

Suomessa asuvan unkarilaisen taiteilijan Sándor Vályn yhdessä pianisti Éva Polgárin kanssa tekemä levy perustuu Piet Mondrianin maalauksiin. Yleensä tällaisiassa tilanteissa kyse on säveltäjän maalauksen tai muun taideteoksen sisällöstä tekemästä tulkinnasta, kuten Modest Mussorgskin kuuluisassa Näyttelykuvia-teoksessa.

Vály ja Polgár lähestyvät asiaa hiukan objektiivisemmalla tavalla. Mondrian Variations pyrkii muuttamaan maalausten sisältämän informaation musiikiksi. Eli kuva on purettu abstraktimmaksi dataksi, josta on johdettu nuotti- ja muita arvoja. Vuoden 1915-1917 mustavalkoiset maalaukset on purettu suoraan muotoina nuottipaperille ja viivojen välisiä välimatkoja on approksimoitu nuottien aika-arvoilla. Mondrianin värikokeilujen kohdalla väreille on annettu nuottiarvo, eli purppura on esimerkiksi Ges/Fis. Syntynyttä musiikkia on ”rikottu” samplerilla. Säveltäjä-tulkitsijoiden urakan edetessä sekä musiikki että metodi kokevat hienoista evoluutiota, kuten Mondrianin ilmaisukin matkalla 1940-luvulle.

Kyseessä on hieno älyllinen rakennelma. Mikä parasta, se on myös tuottanut hienoa musiikkia, joka sopii muodoltaan ja tunnelmaltaan yksiin lähdemateriaalien kanssa. 1950-luvulla uransa aloittaneet amerikkalaiset minimalistit, kuten Morton Feldman ja John Cage, ihailivat Mondriania ja näissä teoksissa on helppo kuulla heidän ”lastensa” kuten Steve Reichin ja Philip Glassin kaikuja.

Koko kuvio on avattu seikkaperäisesti mukana tulevassa vihkosessa. Sieltä löytyvät myös Mondrianin maalaukset sekä kuvia prosessin aikana syntyneistä nuottipapereista. Eli pakettikin toimii kybällä. Parasta hetkeen.

SOUNDI | Levyarviot | 30.7.2012 | Arttu Tolonen  


NRGM – 03.12.2012

Éva Polgár and Sándor Vály: Mondrian Variations – Piano and Samplerworks Suomessa asuvan monitoimitaiteilija Sándor Vályn ja Teksasin suunnalla vaikuttavan pianisti Éva Polgárin toinen kuuluisien taiteilijoiden maalausten tiimoilta keskittyy Piet Mondrianiin. Parilla on selkeä metodi, joilla kuva-aiheet muutetaan musiikiksi ja se on paketissa hauskasti dokumentoitu. Käsitemusiikissa on aina se riski, että hieno idea tuottaa musiikkia, joka ei nouse sen käsitteen tasolle kiinnostavuudessa, mutta Polgárin ja Vályn levy on täynnä hyvää musiikkia, ja sen draaman kaari on myös kokonaisuutena todella toimiva, sekä musiikkina että Mondrianin maalaustaiteen kehityksen ilmentäjänä.

Mondrian Variations CD cover