The structure of chromatic intersections takes its cue from Four Chromatic Intersections on Gold by the Austrian-American artist Herbert Bayer. Known for his design work in the Bauhaus school in Germany, Bayer found a second career as an abstract painter and museum curator in Aspen, Colorado after he fled to America on the eve of World War II. Bayer’s paintings and prints form a distinguished part of collection of the Denver Art Museum. Bayer himself was involved in a multitude of artistic genres, from typography to earthworks to photography to painting, and likely would have appreciated the integration of music and visual art into a multifaceted experience.
When I first read E. E. Cummings’ poem “love is more thicker than forget,” I immediately wanted to set it to music. I have paired the poem with Bayer’s Chromatic Intersections to suggest the poem’s sun/moon duality expressing itself in the painting’s four orbs of concentric color bands, which resemble maps of the hemispheres of two celestial bodies, one warm, the other cool. Just as Bayer’s forms arise from the intersection of these color bands with a corresponding palette of grays and the gold of the background, the harmonies of the music arise from the intersection of diatonic, octatonic, and pentatonic scales. Cummings’ idiosyncratic syntax and penchant for apparent contradictions give the poem a deep-seated ambivalence about the power and role of love in human experience. Teetering between playful optimism and bitter irony, it becomes a modern answer to St. Paul’s “Love is patient, love is kind.” I have tried to embody this ambivalence in the music, which unstably shifts between contrasting moods, akin to the vividly contrasting colors in Bayer’s painting.
(painting by Herbert Bayer; currently on display at the Denver Art Museum)