Below are three composers who were influenced by art and artistic theories.
Composer Pierre Boulez was not inspired by a particular Paul Klee piece, but rather his artistic philosophy as a whole. During Klee’s expansive artistic career, he created more than 9,000 paintings and drawings as well as ground breaking writings, including Theory of Modern Art and Contributions to the Theory of Pictorial Form. “The writings of Paul Klee, his determination to create a world where thinking guided spontaneity, fed my musical thinking,” said Boulez. In 1989, Boulez dedicated his book The Fertile Land to Klee. The Fertile Land refers to two Klee works inspired a visit to Egypt in 1929.
Klee’s artwork also inspired contemporary pieces including Hungarian composer Sandor Veress’ Tribute to Paul Klee, Shani Diluka’s The Five Pieces for Paul Klee, and Klee: Suite for Piano by Japanese jazz pianist Takashi Kako.
One of the most iconic classical pieces inspired by art is Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. This seven movement piece is based on ten drawings and watercolors produced by Mussorgsky’s deceased friend, architect and artist Victor Hartmann. The series opens with the recurring “Promenade” theme, representing a visitor strolling through the museum, and closes with the epic “Great Gate of Kief” finale.
At the time of Mussorgsky’s death in 1881, the piece had been neither performed nor published. Fellow composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov completed the manuscript and brought it to print in 1886.
Claude Debussy is considered one of the first impressionist composers. In his works, he attempted to create and experiment with color in music. He was particularly inspired by his visits to Eastern Asia and collected several oriental artifacts. Katsushika Hokusai’s famous “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa” provoked the conception of Debussy’s “La Mer“.