29 September 2009

Counterpoint of Composition

I was going to write a lovely post on static vs. fluid arts, but I find I haven't made the time. So instead, here are some of Northrop Frye's thoughts on the topic:

"Some arts move in time, like music; others are presented in space, like painting. In both cases the organizing principle is recurrence, which is called rhythm when it is temporal and pattern when it is spatial. Thus we speak of the rhythm of music and the pattern of painting; but later, to show off our sophistication, we may begin to speak of the rhythm of painting and the pattern of music. In other words, all arts may be conceived both temporally and spatially. The score of a musical composition may be studied all at once; a picture may be seen as the track of an intricate dance of the eye. Literature seems to be intermediate between music and painting: its words form rhythms which approach a musical sequence of sounds at one of its boundaries, and form patters which approach the hieroglyphic or pictorial image at the other. The attempts to get as near to these boundaries as possible form the main body of what is called experimental writing. We may call the rhythm of literature the narrative, and the pattern, the simultaneous mental grasp of the verbal structure, the meaning or significance. We hear or listen to a narrative, but when we grasp a writer's total pattern we "see" what he means..... Narrative and meaning thus become respectively, to borrow musical terms, the melodic and harmonic contexts of the imagery.

--Northrop Frye, The Archetypes of Literature.

1 comment:

Rosie Perera said...

A painting may also be viewed over time as it develops. Here's an example I've very excited about. A painter friend of mine, Matt Whitney, is doing an Advent painting called "Yesterday, Today, Forever" for the evening worship service of University Presbyterian Church in Seattle (my old church) during the course of Advent. It is centered around the Advent sermon series. Worshippers can watch it unfolding from a blank canvas to the finished product. He has scheduled some times to be working on it both during the service and at various other times when people might drop by. He is blogging its development (artist's reflections, with photos) at