Every time I visited my grandparents' home in Stoughton, Massachusetts, I would stare at this wool wall hanging in their dining room. "I don't know how you don't see it!" I would exclaim, frustrated that it wasn't immediately obvious to others sitting at the table. "Clearly it's a man walking with his young child in the forest. See? The child on his tiptoes, trying to keep pace with his dad, who's in mid stride?" While others just saw abstract variations of browns and beiges, with organic lines representing flowering plants, I saw people's legs in movement, and imagined a whole story line to go with it. These two people were walking with a determined gait, maybe anxious to get home before it got dark. Of course, the artist who made this wall hanging probably didn't intend that at all. But it's what I saw, and it was -- and still is -- very real to me.
Who remembers the Old Man of the Mountain, the granite rock formation in New Hampshire's White Mountains that also resembled the profile of a bearded man? Or how about Ebay's infamous and very expensive grilled cheese sandwich with toasted marks resembling the Virgin Mary? This is the phenomenon known as pareidolia, defined as "the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern." The root of the word borrowed from both Greek and German, referring to reflection and apparition.
One person might look at Georgia O'Keefe's paintings and see flowers, yet another may see reproductive organs, pushing us to question the artist's intent and what we are imagining into the visual object. When we insert our interpretation, changing what is there into what we perceive it to be, we can influence others to do the same. Or, we inspire others to imagine something entirely different. In a 2012 Scientific American article, the authors noted, "Our brain is wired to find meaning. Our aptitude to identify structure and order around us, combined with our superior talent for face detection, can lead to spectacular cases of pareidolia, with significant effects in society and in culture."
I don't know if we can technically call it the opposite of pareidolia, but there are those who don't have any ability for face recognition at all. This is referred to as prosopagnosia (or face blindness), and it's a condition that world renowned artist Chuck Close suffers from, making his art and his artistic process all the more remarkable. He paints his eerily realistic portraiture from two-dimensional photographs, enabling him to commit to memory the faces of people close to him. "I am as interested in the artificial as the real," Close explains. His fascinating interview can be enjoyed below.
So now take your newfound knowledge of pareidolia and prosopagnosia, and appreciate and reinterpret the world around you. You will be amazed and inspired by what you discover.
by Cara Moroze, Community Relations for Westerhoff School
EVER SO TECHNICALLY, it's still spring. But with the wave of heat blanketing our area for a couple of days, it's certainly putting us in a really good mood in anticipation of the summer solstice... and for researching the best events to listen live to classical and jazz music. Here's our go-to list for free or affordable options both indoors and outdoors. Got a place you'd like to add to our list? Shoot us a recommendation at email@example.com and we'll add it with a thank you!
In chronological order:
Princeton Festival Through June 25. "The Princeton Festival is New Jersey’s premier performing arts festival, featuring nationally-renowned professional artists in more than 10 different types of performances plus a dozen free lectures and special events each June. We produce fully-staged musical theater and opera productions and present a varying offering of jazz, chamber music, a cappella and symphonic concerts; piano, organ, choral and dance recitals; world music, a piano competition, a conducting master class, lectures, educational programs … and more!" Some events are free, some are not.
New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Family Concerts! FREE! "Pack your gear and come along on a 'Road Trip Across the USA,' NJSO-style. Travel from our New Jersey home through the heartland with John Williams’ moving score to Lincoln, to the Wild West and Copland’s iconic Rodeo, all the way to the Magic Kingdom with favorite music from Beauty and the Beast. It’s fun for the whole family on this memorable musical trip!" FREE concert dates include June 23 (Clark), June 27 (Overpeck County Park), June 29 (Hoboken), June 30 (Branch Brook in Newark), July 1 (West Windsor), July 2 (Red Bank), There is one ticketed event on June 25 (Madison) with reservations available here.
Mercer County Jazz Festival July 8 from noon to 8pm in West Windsor, NJ. "Music Stage, Crafters, Food, Kid's Activities, Lake & Forest and a Beer Garden. Vendors of exotic and regional NJ food (NJ food can be exotic, huh?) ~ Craftspeople! Six great bands including Joey Defrancesco & The People as the featured closing act! Featuring a stage for music, Kid's Activities, the woods, and JAZZ! Rain or Shine!" $10 admission.
Scores: New Orchestra Works (Princeton, NJ) On Saturday, July 15th at 8pm at the Richardson Auditorium in Princeton, NJ. Tickets are $15 each. "JoAnn Falletta conducts the NJSO premieres of dynamic works by the composers of the NJSO Edward T. Cone Composition Institute, a multi-faceted program that promotes new music and emerging composers. The Institute composers will briefly share the inspiration behind their pieces in an evening that will show the vibrant future of orchestral music." Tickets available here.
The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey Summer Festival The BONJ Summer season kicks off on August 6 at 3pm with La Boheme at Dolan Hall, The Annunciation Center, The College of Saint Elizabeth, 2 Convent Road in Morristown. Tickets $5/student, $30/senior, $40/adult. On August 12, catch the Summer Cabaret at Grace Church, Madison, New Jersey at 7:30 PM. Tickets to Summer Cabaret are $25 each. The festival continues August 12 and August 13 with chamber music, and concludes with Summer Breezes Orchestra on August 20. More details and ticket information is here.
JazzFest (Montclair, NJ) FREE! On August 12 from noon to nine, rain or shine. "The annual Montclair Jazz Festival is the biggest single one-day event in Montclair! Come on out and invite your neighbors, friends and family to celebrate the incredible, original American cultural tradition - JAZZ! No tickets required! Bring folding chairs or a picnic blanket and enjoy a full day of live music!"
Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Festival (Long Branch) FREE! August 26 from 1pm to 9:30pm on The Great Lawn (on the Boardwalk) at Cooper Avenue in Long Branch, NJ. "Six great bands including Popa Chubby as the featured closing act! Featuring a stage for music, Kid's Activities, the Beach, and the Blues! Rain or Shine!"
music (n.) ...from Greek mousike (techne) "(art) of the Muses," from fem. of mousikos "pertaining to the Muses," from Mousa "Muse" <as quoted from the Online Etymology Dictionary>
Artists' muses for music are as varied and complex as the creators themselves. Sometimes a musician's muse is a mystery. Take for instance the repertoire of Beethoven's most romantic pieces and the many candidates whose lives and influence are as layered and complex as the notes on a page. Or perhaps these muses are powerful figments of an artist's imagination. Consider what Tchaikovsky meant when he famously wrote, "I sit down to the piano regularly at nine-o'clock in the morning and Mesdames les Muses have learned to be on time for that rendezvous."
Of course, music itself can be the muse. In a New York Times article about Einstein, we learn that Mozart had a profound impact on the world's most famous genius who "was fascinated by Mozart and sensed an affinity between their creative processes, as well as their histories."
Sometimes a muse is not in a personified form, but takes on the shape of something bigger than all of us. Like Nature. Did you immediately think of Vivaldi's "program music" that presents a musical narrative on the Four Seasons? Did the seasons of spring, summer, fall and winter serve as Vivaldi's muse, or was it the pastoral landscapes of the Baroque painter Marco Ricci that served to move Vivaldi's notes as if they were strokes on a canvas?
Last month PBS Newshour explored the life and muses of a composer named Stephen Lias whose muses are our country's National Parks. He calls the album Encounters, and as you listen, you find yourself contemplating how the instrumentation of each composition reflects the intricacies and wonders of these treasured territories.
Take a moment to contemplate your muse and how he/she/it shapes the art and music you create.
The New York Times just posted an article about 2017 spring and summer art openings that are worthy of our attention. Westerhoff's 'Running Wild' group was already ahead of the curve with a trip in the works for March 30 to the Montclair Art Museum to see the critically-acclaimed Matisse & American Art exhibit. We're also really excited to check out the Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends exhibit at the MoMA and the The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s at the Cooper Hewitt. But gas up the car, kids! There are so many more wonderful openings from sea to shining sea, and if you find yourself in any of the locations mentioned in the NYT article, why not throw in a little arts & culture into the mix.
New Jersey is home to so many museum gems, tucked away in picturesque towns. One such find was Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, New Jersey, just 45 minutes due west of Metuchen/Edison. Currently, the museum is exhibiting RED, featuring works by ten artists who use the color "not necessarily as a predominant color, but because it conjures up a specific emotion or plays a vital role in the work's narrative." You are greeted to the exhibit by a stunning crocheted work reminiscent of a coral reef. The convex stitched orbs play with the shadows on the wall, adding to the three-dimensionality of this abstract textile art. Also on view are ceramic "brickworks" of Adam Welch, landscapes of Wes Sherman, and an impressive and inspiring display of young artists' works on the third floor of the museum space (area schools have rotating exhibitions and the works of art are worthy of the space in which they temporarily call home). Also recommended on your visit to Clinton: The Red Mill Museum Village where you can take in 200 years of history in about an hour's time. Stroll through the quaint downtown area for the shops, and go for a wine tasting at Balic Wines - surprise yourself with a taste of blueberry or mango varietals, or sample the more traditional dry whites or full-bodied reds that they also offer, all locally made. And do not miss out on a meal at an impeccably charming BYOB called The Clean Plate Kitchen (check out the rave review by The New York Times), especially on a lovely warm day when you can take in the view along the river overlooking the Red Mill and waterfall.
So we're going full throttle on social media presence. In addition to our Facebook Page (please like us at http://www.facebook.com/westerhoffschool), we've got a Twitter Handle (@LearnMusicArt) and an Instagram Page (http://instagram.com/westerhoff_school). We even have a few items posted on Vimeo. But because we're also old school, we like to socialize in person, too. Stop by on Monday, February 13th from 4 to 5:15PM to make some Valentines with us ($5 per person includes materials, cider and cookies). Let us know you're coming at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure to check out our new SPRING SCHEDULE. Our music and art classes kick off February 11th with shows scheduled in mid June. Whether you are hoping to take up an instrument for the first time or continue with music lessons, our seasoned professionals are excited to develop our students skills in piano, violin, viola, cello, clarinet, saxophone, flute and classical, electric and acoustic guitar. And for those who want to develop visual arts skills, Mickey Waring is preparing her art studio for an array of classes for students as young as 3 through adult! Check out the ART OFFERINGS this session.
We welcome all students from Metuchen, Woodbridge, Edison, Iselin, Rahway, & Plainfield and their surrounding areas. Want a tour of our facility? Email us at email@example.com to arrange one. Or inquire directly from our website. We look forward to SPRINGING FORWARD IN MUSIC AND ARTS EDUCATION with you!
Gary Westerhoff's name is on an art and music school building. But what many may not know is that he's an avid nature photographer and his works are simply stunning. Several of his photographs are exhibited on the second story wall of the school. We encourage you to check it out and be inspired by his perceptions and interpretations of landscapes and wildlife spanning the Americas on his website filled with an online gallery of his extraordinary photos.
Gary Westerhoff is a licensed Professional Environmental Engineer and Professional Planner and a national expert on drinking water. Prior to retirement, he provided consulting services to major drinking water utilities throughout the United States and was CEO of a national environmental consulting and engineering firm. Over more than five decades he has developed a passion for outdoor adventures. This passion combines fly fishing for trout and salmon with landscape and wildlife nature photography across North America, Canada, Central America and South America. Many of Gary's wildlife images catch the individual characteristics and habits of the animals and their relationship with the environment in which they live.