Musings on Muses
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.
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