Watch this video and then listen to the 1st Bagatelle by Anton Webern (1883-1945). What is the relationship between what the performers are doing in the video and the audio track?
Listen to the Six Bagatelles by German composer Anton Webern and imagine the shapes that the music makes. (YouTube recording)
Webern uses some special techniques for the string instruments in order to attain certain sound effects:
Mute — a device that dampens the vibrations on an instrument, resulting in a softer sound.
Pizzicato – plucking the string with a finger instead of the bow.
Tremolo — moving the bow back and forth on the string as fast as possible, making a trembling sound.
Ponticello — this is an Italian word that means to play on the bridge, which makes an eerie, squeaky sound.
Harmonics — a whispery sound created by putting your fingers on the left hand on the string with a light pressure.
Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866- 1944) is considered one of the first abstract painters; this means that he painted shapes and lines and colour, rather than realistic pictures. He loved music (he played the piano and cello as a child) and felt a strong connection between painting and listening — he felt that he could “see” music and “hear” colour. Look at the following paintings and think about our shape game. Try singing or adding sound effects to the shapes in the paintings. Can you turn the paintings into music?
Art Activity: Choose a Bagatelle and draw and paint it in the style of Kandinsky. (This is my own humble attempt – a painting of Webern’s 1st Bagatelle.)