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Music to my eyes: NIU Art Musuem to unveil three spring exhibitions concerned with sounds

March 18, 2011

Logo of the NIU Art MuseumNIU’s Art Musuem will host three exhibitions from Tuesday, March 29, through Saturday, May 14, which explore the sound of art.

“Visual Art and Sound” features exhibitions and events that explore surprising interrelationships between visual art, music and sound, and highlight the artistic community of NIU. An opening reception for all three is scheduled from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday, March 31.

Located on the west-end first floor of Altgeld Hall, the galleries are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and by appointment for group tours.

Exhibitions and lectures are free; donations are appreciated. Pay parking is available in the visitor’s lot on Carroll Avenue and at metered spots in front of Altgeld Hall. Free parking is available Saturdays and during receptions and visiting artist lectures in the lot northeast of Gilbert and College Drives.

The exhibitions of the NIU Art Museum are funded in part by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, the Friends of the NIU Art Museum and the Arts Fund 21.

For more information, visit or call (815) 753-1936.

"Klänge" by Wassily KandinskyWassily Kandinsky: Klänge

Kandinsky’s “Klänge” (German for sounds) is considered among the most significant artist’s books of the 20th century. It was hand-printed and published in a limited edition in 1913.

For Klänge, Kandinsky created color and black and white woodcuts, juxtaposed with his poetry, to assert the syntactical importance of pattern and variation and to suggest the equivalence of visible and audible.

Klänge highlights Kandinsky’s belief in the expressive abstract correspondence between musical tones and visual image — a concept that he voiced eloquently in his book, “Concerning The Spiritual in Art.” Kandinsky wrote that “the artist may use any form(s) … to express his inner emotions and experiences.”

It was this idea that helped to propel Kandinsky down a path toward non-objective — or abstract — art.

The development of this pictorial language had huge implications for all subsequent image-making in the 20th and 21st centuries. The woodcuts in Klänge trace the arc of this development. That this discovery and transition were made through the process of producing the two-dozen woodcuts in Klänge distinguishes this book among significant examples of 20th century art.

Eva-Maria Worthington, owner of Worthington Gallery, a Chicago gallery specializing in German expressionism, will offer a lecture at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 31. The public is also invited to a reading of selected Klänge poems, in the original German, with Katharina Barbe, chair of NIU’s Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, at 12:15 p.m. Friday, April 8. 

"Pavilion" by Steven Roden (from Notations 21)Notations 21

Notations 21 is an exhibition of contemporary, international, non-traditional music scores inspired by John Cage’s “Notations” (1968), and curated by New York composer Theresa Sauer, author of Notations 21, an anthology of 165 composers’ visual music scores.

Notations 21 is a celebration of innovations in graphic musical notation.

The composers/artists employ non-traditional symbols, paint, ink, photographic images and text to turn musical scores into instruments of expression that graphically convey information about the meanings or performances of their pieces. Through the musical scores in the exhibition, visitors can see the composers’ desire to introduce an appreciative aesthetic for both the aural and visual beauty of their creations.

Sauer writes: “Notations 21 is a modern compendium and anthology, deriving its inspiration from Cage’s seminal work. Thousands of new composers are creating scores, the likes of which Cage could have never anticipated, that are graphic in nature, liberated from the traditional staff, and rival the best visual art in their aesthetic value.”

A concert called “Visual Music,” featuring works by Cage, Kyong Mee Choi, NIU’s Robert Fleisher, Paul Paccione and Sauer, will begin at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 31, in the Music Building Recital Hall. 

Sheet Music and Record AlbumsSheet Music and Record Albums: Graphics of Their Time

Sheet Music and Record Albums: Graphics of Their Time examines facets of the interrelationship of visual art and sound in a medium to which nearly everyone can relate.

Art designed for album covers, sleeves and liner notes advertises, protects, enshrouds, enhances, envelops and describes the music contained within, but with the hope that it will connect visually with the viewer and encourage purchase of the music.

At their best, album covers and sleeves transcend mere marketing to offer an image as metaphor that is evocative of the music. Album cover designers, most of whom are unknown to us, have contributed greatly to the sophistication of the “average person’s” visual vocabulary. 

The images in Sheet Music and Record Albums: Graphics of Their Time were selected as milestones on the journey where art and music have gone hand in hand. As musician Peter Gabriel said: “I think if you respond to an image emotionally, it is likely that it will relate … to the music inside.”

The styles, concerns, and issues of various 20th century eras are explored through the combination of musical genres and period graphics.

There will be two chances to “Listen to the Music that Inspired the Graphics” with curator (and disc jockey) Peter Olson at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 9, and 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 19.

Other events related to “Visual Art and Sound” include:

  • April 8 to May 14. “Music to My Eyes” explores musical instruments as a worldwide cultural means of expression, sound and story. Organized by students enrolled in Exhibition Interpretation, a graduate-level Museum Studies course. 
  • Thursday, April 7. The “Music to My Eyes” opening reception takes place from 4:30 to 7 p.m. with performances by the NIU Latin Jazz Ensemble with special guest Christopher Washburne in the museum at 5 p.m. and the NIU ‘BauHouse with special guest Erin Lesser in the Grand Stairway at 6 p.m.
  • Thursday, April 7. A book discussion with Christopher Washburne, author of Sounding Salsa, begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Center for Latin and Latin American Studies.
  • Friday, April 8. The NIU Latin Jazz Ensemble perform with special guest Christopher Washburne at 8 p.m. in the Music Building Concert Hall.
  • Saturday, April 9. “Color and Music Harmony,” a workshop for children ages 6 to 9, takes place from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the North Gallery of the NIU Art Museum. Enrollment is limited to 10; pre-registration is required. Parents are welcome. Call (815) 753-1936 for more information or to register.
  • Saturday, April 9. Christopher Washburne and S.Y.O.T.O.S. perform at 7 p.m. in the Music Building Concert Hall.
  • Sunday, April 10. The NIU World Music Concert, featuring the NIU Latin Jazz Ensemble and S.Y.O.T.O.S., begins at 3 p.m. in the Music Building Concert Hall.
  • Wednesday, April 13. John Edward Terrell, the Regenstein Curator of Pacific Anthropology at the Field Museum of Natural History, will speak on “Material Culture and Museums as Places of Encounter” from 5 to 6 p.m. in Altgeld 315.
  • Thursday, April 14. A drum circle is planned at noon in the MLK Commons, weather permitting.
  • Wednesday, April 20. Rick Riccio, of Ricio Exhibit Services and Eastern Illinois University, will speak on “Museum Representations of the Other and Us: A Personal Reflection of an Exhibit Designer” from 5 to 6 in Altgeld 315. Riccio is also Region 2 director of the Illinois Association of Museums.
  • Saturday, May 7. “Homegrown Music Children’s Workshop,” for ages 7 to 11, will explore music through household objects. The workshop will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. in a location to be determined. Enrollment is limited to 10; pre-registration is required. Parents are welcome. Call (815) 753-1936 for more information or to register.