Thursday, September 29, 2011

Modes of Transport and Classical Music

Listening to Schubert's Unfinished Symphony this morning, I had an image of a man, Schubert I suppose, riding a galloping horse.  And I wondered could early 19th century romanticism be linked to the main form of transportation at the time - horse riding? Romantic painters like Delacroix and Gericault certainly loved to give us graphic images of horses straining at the bit, eyes enlarged in fear, nostrals flaring.  Could these wild horses be present in romantic works like Schubert's symphonies as well?
Delacroix: Lion attacking an Arab on a Horse

And now that I think about it, is it a coincidence that the jittering movements  and improvisations of jazz coincide with the onset of our modern obsession, the darting automobile, again reflected in the visual arts in the late works of Mondrian, such as "Broadway Boogie-Woogie".

And what of today? Do not Steve Reich's tedious works of repetition reflect the barley perceptible coughing motion of the modern high-speed train? I can imagine enjoying them on my iPod while riding the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto, but surely not seated on a saddle.  Do not the pared down and depersonalised sounds of the works of Philip Glass reflect the atmosphere of airports and commercial flights? And if I need a parallel from the visual arts, let me pick the abstract  works of Robert Nymann, as white and featureless as the atmosphere through which we fly, broken only by the turbelence of his rippled surface.

Robert Nymann

Marx said something like - show me your technology and I'll show you your government.  Doolan now says, show me your means of transport and I'll show you your music. Just a thought.


  1. Hello:
    But what a fascinating, intriguing and highly original thought. Indeed, you have chosen well the examples which perfectly fit your theory. It would be interesting to know how far this would all play out [pun only half intended!].

  2. Of course one could argue that one could just as easily find an almost infinite number of examples that would counter my theory.