Friday, July 22, 2016

Trout Quintet, Franz Shubert

Franz Shubert in his short career, (he died when he was 31), composed a great deal of beautiful music.  Here is a link to his Wikipedia site:

The Trout Quintet is the popular name for the Piano Quintet in A major, D. 667. The work was composed in 1819, when he was 22 years old; it was not published, however, until 1829, a year after his death. 
This is a translation of the first 8 measures which only use three instruments.

Here is link to the music.  Once again the lowest part could easily stand alone. The finished piece looks and sounds like a jewel.

First Violin

second violin



Tuesday, July 19, 2016


Intermission from color music for today's post.

This summer I am once again trying some plein air painting.  You can see how easy it is for me to forget what a mess it was last time.  This is a rather long post but if you are interested it is an example of what it is really like to paint outside in new places.
The Wayne Art Center is sponsoring some paint-outs at various places in the area followed by a show in September and I am also joining some HTown Plein Air Artists to paint in farmer's markets and farms for a show in November.

My first Wayne Art Center excursion was to Androssan Farm.  I printed out my Google  map and off I went last Wednesday. I was able to find the place, no problem, turned into the drive marked Androssan right on schedule and drove up the very long drive over dirt roads and past rolling hills and various structures that definitely were not Androssan.  I finally got to what looked like a palatial estate but there were no other cars there and it seemed deserted, so I drove on.  Along this road were huge new estates slightly smaller versions of Downton Abbey overlooking plenty of territory with more construction going on.  Doubling back since I was a bit early I figured the old estate must have been the right place.  I pulled up near the entrance and decided I would paint the large Sycamores that lined the road.

As I started to get out my supplies a woman and a pure white pit bull walked into view.  She looked at me inquiringly so I explained that I was part of the Plein Air painting group from Wayne Art Center.  I didn't get out of the car.  This did not ring any bells with her but she shrugged and said nobody told her what was going on.  Just then a truck appeared and she said it contained the estate manager and he might know what was up.  Luckily he had an inkling that the plein air painters were actually at the "farm".  I followed him down and around more dirt roads over much beautiful scenery with deer loping in front of the car.  We finally arrived at a bunch of farm machinery, some run down buildings and an old stone house.  This was it.  As we got out of the car I asked the estate manager, who reminded my of a character out of  the TV series "Justified" if there was a bathroom handy.  He said he didn't think so but he would check.  There was not a bathroom functioning but there was a hose to get water. mmmm, this was going to be interesting and probably a short visit.

Other people began to arrive and we wondered around introducing ourselves and searching for something to paint.  There were some fine looking black Angus staring out from various places and I took some pictures with my phone.  I finally settled on a spot that had a fairly level place to put down my supplies.

I had decided to try out some pen, ink and water colors for a change as they are a little less messy if they fall all over the place.  I had just completed a pen and ink sketch when it began to drizzle all over the paper causing the ink to run.  I waited a bit hoping it would stop but instead it really started to rain so I dashed for the cover of my car moved up to my spot, threw everything in and drove off down the road.  I was glad at least I had some photos.

Since I went out at another exit than I went in, I had no idea where I was and it was really pouring.  So much so that I had to pull over for a while.  I did ask whoever answers questions on my phone where I was and how to get home but their instructions did not seem to fit the situation I found myself in.  So after the rain let up a bit I just started driving.  I finally found something that looked a bit familiar as well as a Starbucks.  How welcome it seemed.  I went in, had a mocha latte with soy milk - one of my favorite fast food treats and consulted my phone again.  This time it was able to guide me home.

This painting then is not really Plein Air it is Plein iPad.  I have made it a bit more bucolic than it really is I think but the more I looked at those sweet faced cows the more I felt they deserved an ideal place...and maybe for them it is.

8" x 16"
Nancy Herman
oil on canvas board

Monday, July 18, 2016


I know I am jumping ahead quite a bit to get to Mozart after Bach, perhaps I will go back and catch the several geniuses between at a later date.

This is probably Mozart's first Minuet.  Since he composed his first Symphony at the age of 8 it is not impossible that it was composed when he was 6.

How can that be?  My tentative conclusion is that music is actually floating around somewhere in the ether and when a young brain is primed and open for it, that brain catches it.  Considering that once it is caught and written down and performed it moves a great deal of people this doesn't seem so far fetched.  Why then should some composers' work move people more than others?  Perhaps the very best composers have a superior catching system?

What do you think?

Here is a link to the sheet music and if you click on"listen" you can hear the music.

I think the bottom part is so beautiful that it could easily stand alone.

Top part of Minuet

Bottom part of Minuet

2 parts together


Saturday, July 9, 2016


Yesterday I mentioned that the color emphasis in all the music I have translated seems to be on the golden mean.
Here is a lovely video about ideal proportions.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Albers and Fugues

While thinking about fugues and what Albers had to say about how one color changes another I began to wonder if staggering colors in a sequence would hold the colors together in the same way that it holds the notes together in time.

This is an example from Albers' color course of the way one color can be changed because of what surrounds it.

The small color in the center of the two adjacent squares is the same.  In this example you can see the way our perception of color is changed by the colors surrounding it but it is always happening no matter how subtle it may be.  When two colors touch, our perception of them changes.

Here is one of the first wall hangings I created.  It is now in the permanent collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  I am showing it because it illustrates very well how one color changing another can hold a sequence of colors together.

60" x 60"
cotton fabric, hand sewn

Here is an inset to show the way the colors change.  The solid colors change the prints underneath.  This is not a great photo as it is not only a change in the amount of black and white but a color shift as well.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Bach Fugue and Albers

I did translate the first 7 measures of a Bach Fugue #XX.  Several problems immediately became apparent.  The first being that of course Fugues don't come to a tidy place to stop after a few measures like most music.  In fact the very essence of a Fugue is that is goes on and on without a pause and yet we remain interested because of its masterful construction.  I did find a place to pause after 7 measures but it was not something Bach would have wanted to happen.

The second problem is that fugues often begin with the soprano line alone and only after several measures does the bass line enter the scene.  This leaves a lot of black - the color I chose for rest - at the beginning of the piece.

HERE is a link to the Fugue I chose so you can hear the music. (click on 'listen')  You'll notice there are a lot of small lines of color as the fugue moves along at a rapid clip.  You might also notice that in this piece as in the others I have translated into color there is a pretty clear accent on the golden mean.

Soprano Voice

Bass Voice

 Two voices together

Tomorrow what I learned from Fugues that translated to my work with fabric.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


Finally we are up to Bach in my very truncated history of music.
I have chosen a simple piece, THE MINUET IN D minor as it is easy to see the color relationships and it is a simple but satisfying 8 measures.
Go HERE to listen to the whole piece.

Top part

Bottom part


It would not be fair to present Bach without a fugue and in fact the ideas that hold a fugue together inspired a great deal of my work in fiber so next post I will present a fugue.  I have not created one yet so it may take a while.  Meanwhile I will search for a simple but beautiful one to work on.

Thursday, June 30, 2016


The next composer I would like to translate into color is Henry Purcell.  Working around the same time as Corelli, he was none the less using more notes and a more complicated palette as a result.  Corelli was in Italy and Purcell in England.  Did they ever get to hear each other's music?  Unlikely.  How things have changed.

I have chosen to "translate" the first 8 measures of Purcell's Festival Rondeau, this time C is Green.

Go HERE to listen to the music.

Here is the top part.

 Second part.

Third part.

4th part

Whole 8 measures of Purcell's Festival Rondeau

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Sorry I promised Mozart for today but he will have to wait for some of his predecessors to take the stage and show their colors.

By the time Arcangelo Correlli was born in 1653 musical notation was an established way of sharing compositions.  Music had gotten more complicated with more rhythmic variation.  Composers by this time are using a greater range of tones instead of confining themselves to two octaves they are delving into many more highs and lows.  In this Sonata by Corelli the top voice alone spans more than an octave.  And the bottom voice has the piece complete three octaves.  You will notice I have faded each note into black.  I decided to do this as when each note is played it fades after it is played.  In yesterday's piece the notes are held until they blend together but in this performance the notes are clearly defined.
To hear the whole piece go here and click on "listen".

top part of first 8 measures of Corelli's Sonatina in A Minor

Bottom Part of 8 measures of Corelli's Sonatina in A Minor

Two parts together

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Color Music

Why does the music look as it does?

You see the sheet music so you know that the first note of the piece is going to be
high D or Light purple so that goes in the center and it will take up two spaces, the next note C will take up two spaces as well, and the next, but then there is a little variation and the C or light red will only take up one space with the B taking up a half space and so it goes.  The amount of space each color takes up is determined by the amount of time each note is played.  So in affect the sheet music allows us to see a color pattern.

The top part is then placed with the bottom by dividing the parts into equal parts.  In a large piece (60" square or more) I used a 3/4 inch strip of color because it seemed to mix in the eye best when standing the usual distance from the work.  In these smaller pieces I have used very small strips of color.  Today's version has smaller strips than yesterdays and I think it works better.  I also like the rests in grey rather than white as it is more of a 'rest' instead of a stop.

rests in grey, smaller divisions of color

I did think these colors were beautiful together.  They were not anything I would have chosen but they really sang.  And so I began to see what other music would look like using this system of translation.

Tomorrow Mozart.

Please pass this along to anyone you think might be interested.

Monday, June 20, 2016


Back in the attic it was time to try a piece of music and see if the colors were beautiful together.  I decided to start with the first music I could find that was written down.  At this time I did not have a computer as it was in the 70's so I had to go to the library and see what I could see.  It was all very interesting and I discovered that although there probably was music in Egypt and Rome there is no recorded history of notation that has been found.  There is however notation from the Greeks. This is one of the most marvelous things about music, that there is notation that allows us to see exactly what notes any given composer has in mind from hundreds of years ago and reproduce the music today.

Here is eight measures of the music I chose and the translation of all the words.  You might like to listen to the music as you read the words.  You'll notice that all the notes are very close in tone, nothing very high or very low and the notes flow into each other without a pause.  This is typical of early music.  It holds together because of the tones, rhythm is not very important.

Compose a tearful melody,
weeping in elegy;
a time for lamentation has come,
a time that steals joys.
At this eclipse sorrow’s night
distorts what we see;
Let sadness rule, for the
cause of sorrow stands in the watchtower.
The star of the Rhine
casts Latium into ruins;
the star tumbles, and the star’s fall
holds the lands in darkness.
The truly Italian region
lies concealed, afraid to be seen,
For darkness is the friend of sin
and crime seeks his old haunt.
O what a definitive demonstration
of the falsity of the world!
Through experience Truth proves
what the world is;
it delights in disasters
and is constant in its inconstancy;
Death, the prince of this terrible law,
rules without pity.

Top notes of Tange (rests are white)

Bottom of Pange

Whole Pange Melos Lacrimosum

I have taken the liberty of softening the edges of the colors a bit to echo the way the music  is performed.

Friday, June 17, 2016


Now that the Plein Air painting experience is over I can get back to the attic where I was thinking about how to paint music.

I had my keyboard ready to go.  The problem that had me thinking so long was how to represent something that happens in time.  Notes touch only the one before they occur and the one after that.  If color interaction is what is going to create color music and there is any relationship between musical vibrations and color vibrations, then the way the colors interact is key.  I began with a scale.  I placed the first note in the middle, a low C or dark red, the second note D or violet I placed around C so that it would only touch C.  The next note E or blue went around D so that it would only touch C and the next note E or blue green. And so it goes up the scale with each note/color touching only the one before it and the one after it.  This way of arranging the colors also forces the eye to the beginning - the center - and out to the edge - the end.

The colors are very close in tone, i.e. the amount of white and or black they contain, but do get slowly lighter as they move up the scale.

Since we are operating in space, not in time, we see the whole scale, not just one color at a time.  We see how all the colors relate to each other.  We don't have to remember the colors as we do when listening to notes.  Anything in time relies on memory.  A representation of any event in space does not.  We can look at it for as long as it pleases us.

The Scale of Red

Monday, June 13, 2016

Plein Air Painting

It was great to see those of you who stopped by yesterday.  They were refreshing moments in my frustrating day.  I didn’t paint a prize winning painting - not even I thought so.   I did learn a lot however and had a delicious mint chocolate chip cone to reward myself for trying.

Things I learned upon reflection in case you want to try your hand at plein air painting.

1. Do not under any circumstances paint in the sun. - I should know this as I have many very dark paintings that were a surprise to me when I brought them in the house.  The painting I finished was not too bad in the sun but had no life at all in normal light.
2.  Always be ready with a spare prepared canvas with no drawing on it so you can paint anywhere.  I was very well prepared for two sites both of which turned out to be impossible because of either sun, wind or a car in the way.
3.  Have everything nailed down in some way.  Most of my frustration had to do with being covered in oil paint a lot of the time as my palette kept blowing onto everything.
4.  Only enter competitions if you are feeling masochistic....or the prizes are really big!

The painting below is not the one I completed yesterday (that one is not dry yet) but another from Chestnut Hill that I painted last week.
Now I think the face in the window is me looking out on Germantown Avenue wondering why those people are out there on the street struggling with heat, wind and oil paint.

Nancy Herman
9" x 12"
oil on canvas board

Saturday, June 11, 2016


Nancy Herman
9" x 12"
oil on canvas board

Those who deliver our packages and our mail are an important part of every day that we can take for granted.  This guy is the star of the show.

Another painting from Chestnut Hill completed this week in preparation for the Plein Air Festival tomorrow.  Check out the Festival tomorrow from 10:00 to 3:00 all up and down Germantown Avenue with some special events and 40 artists trying desperately to finish a canvas.  I'm going to be working on a larger than usual piece just to keep things interesting.  I'm off today to buy some big brushes.

Friday, June 10, 2016


Nancy Herman
oil on stretched canvas
20" x 16"

This is one of the very old buildings to be found on Germantown Avenue in the heart of Chestnut Hill.  It is on the 8400 block on the East side of the street.  I will be painting on the West side this Sunday from 10:00 to 3:00 as part of the Plein Air Festival.  Come on out and watch artists trying to finish a painting in 5 hours while dodging sun, wind, cars, and people kibitzing.  Not for the faint of heart!

Thursday, June 9, 2016


Last you heard from me I was in the attic thinking about how to paint music.  Well for literary purposes I am still thinking about that.
In the mean time I have been getting ready for the Plein Air Festival in Chestnut Hill by painting scenes from the part of Germantown Avenue that I am assigned.  It is the stretch opposite Graver's Lane Gallery so I am in luck as I can duck in there to get cool if it is a scorcher.
The event will take place next Sunday from 10:00 to 3:00.  This is the rain date.  Not sure if there will be another rain date if it rains on Sunday.

Here is one of the paintings I have been working on to get ready for the big day.

Nancy Herman
9" x 12"
oil on canvas board

Friday, May 27, 2016


After I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1974 I went into my third floor and spent a lot of time thinking about how I was going to go about making colors do what musical notes do so well. 

Nancy Herman
8" x 6"

I decided to see if I could somehow “translate” music to color and see if the colors made any sense to me.  Were the results beautiful or not basically.  I had already constructed my keyboard.  I placed red in the C position because red and green are in the middle of the spectrum in terms of how light they are.  My choice of red over green was arbitrary, but years later I read that Sir Isaak Newton also associated red with middle C, so at least I was in good company.  As we will see later on it is more important that the colors are tuned in a slow progression from dark to light than that any one color is in the position of C.


Notice how red and green are about the same tone or shade.  (These terms apply to the amount of light a color reflects)  Yellow has a lot of light and purple keeps its light to itself.


to be continued....

Please pass along to anyone you think may be interested.

Thursday, May 26, 2016


So you can get an idea of how one color changes another, here is an exercise from the Josef Albers course THE INTERACTION OF COLOR. The two small squares are exactly the same color.  The background color changes our perception of them.   The one on the left seems darker than the one on the right and the one on the right also seems to have more of a yellow tint.

tomorrow...getting started in the attic.

Please pass this along to anyone you think might be interested.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Although there was never a time in my life that I was not making some form of art, after my four children were off at school, I decided to go back to college to get my degree and see what I could see that would inform my work.

At that time at the University of Pennsylvania they taught Josef Alber's course the interaction of color.  Neil Welliver, then the head of the department of Fine Arts went to Yale where Albers taught.  As a result the thrust of the department was a combination of the Bauhaus courses of Albers and painting outside from nature.  Welliver painted outside in Maine.  My instructor in painting was Rackstraw Downs who paints very large panoramic views of New York while sitting on the street.  I have been painting nature and examining color ever since.

In the Alber's course it is necessary to see the way one color changes another when they are juxtaposed in order to complete various exercises.  It is really the only class in art I have ever taken that taught something that is not subjective.  You see it or you don't,  but it really does happen.

This changing color felt like music to me.  Could there be a way to present colors in a sequence that would move the emotions the way music does?

Gould's Hill
Neil Welliver

80th Street and Broadway
Rackstraw Downs be continued

Please share with anyone you think might be interested.