Music can affect us in so many ways. For example, background music in movies can make a scene touching, poignant, suspenseful, or humorous. Music can also affect how we perceive art. Looking at art is an emotional experience, much like listening to music. When viewing an artwork, each person will feel different things, recall different memories, and pull on different life experiences to “read” a piece. What if we combined the two emotional instigators, music and art? Maybe they could show us a new perspective on one another.
At the opening of the new Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA exhibitions at AD&A Museum, Sacred Art in the Age of Contact and The Schoolhouse and the Bus, there was a musician performing, Emiliano Campobello. He is a local artist, mural painter, and UCSB graduate. He played traditional Chumash music on a wooden pipe, called a sacred flute, similar to a recorder in look and reminiscent of an oboe in sound. I had been through the Sacred Art exhibit before, without the music. It was a powerful exhibit, but I didn’t connect to the Chumash culture as much as I did with the background music floating hauntingly through the space. It drew me back in time, to a place where the Chumash were fighting to keep their religion and culture alive. One where they buried their sacred noisemakers for safekeeping and began to turn their sacred baskets into aesthetic and useful objects for their Spanish Mission masters. It was so much more poignant that way.
The next time you go to a museum, or an art gallery, or even a public art installation, pull out your phone. What kind of music does the art make you think of? If you listen to it while viewing the art, does it enhance the art? What music would you definitely not associate with it? Try listening to it as you view, does it bring a new perspective? Music can take a good art viewing experience, to a legendary one.
-Shannon Lee, AD&A Museum Intern