Tuesday, May 17, 2011

learning to make music

Yesterday afternoon I heard another wonderful story on NPR--it was an obituary for the cellist Bernard Greenhouse. Now I confess that I didn't recognize his name--although I must have heard of him. After all he was a member of the Beaux Arts Trio for many years. Then he had a solo career. As the story reminded us, he could have been the only person living to have played cello for almost nine decades. Pretty amazing isn't that. At age eight he decided to become a cellist. OK--that takes determination. Studied under Pablo Cassals. Now that is someone I have heard of--you probably know that name too. Although his eyesight was failing, he played the cello every day. Not to learn new music but just to keep his skills. Then three weeks ago, he stopped. Playing the cello became too hard for him at age 95--or was it 96.

Already a great story but what I remembered most was his teaching. As he put it, and I paraphrase, his goal was not too teach his students to play the cello but to make music. Think about it. Being so sensitive to possibilities of the notes and music that you can convey the emotions that you want to with it. The interview was wonderful--check it out HERE.

I think about that concept as I work on a grey rolling hills. Now I confess I love the color grey. Not the grey with the silver tones. Too harsh and distant for me. But the grey that goes into taupe. Just that hint of warmth there. The uncertainty of the colors that convey memories of the mist and dirt. Subtle colors that must be read and studied. One at a time.

I made a study in grey a few weeks ago. Look at that definition and rhythm. So many colors put together. Even the blacks have bits of color in their creation if you look carefully. This study was more to the mauve colors. Oh how I love the subtleties of the fabric.

The rolling hills will be a bit different. More free form. Little scenes of the hills. Not the pinks. Just the hint of yellow. A little more of the taupe.

Don't you love the look of the clouds. This fabric was actually meant to be smoke for a train engine.
That hint of taupe. How do you define it? So sophisticated and subtle. Tiny bits of green in the this color. And the blue--oh the faintest of the blue. Can't be too strong for this piece. I love making quilts where I must use this control and knowledge. This is what makes it fun for me.

Isn't this like making music? Knowing the subtle details. Paying careful attention to what you have done and using it to decide what you will do while always remembering the whole that is intended.

I think of this as I remember the interview. Learning to sew is one thing but making music is another. Isn't that the essence of art? Choosing each piece of fabric carefully--the size, the color, the designs and putting it into the quilt just right so that it looks like it just happens.

What do you think? Have you heard any great interviews recently? How do you learn to "make music"?


  1. Wow! What a wonderfully inspiring story!
    I love your pieces, too!!

    So glad I found you through the miz kate dot com Artist blog hop!
    I am your newest blog follower. :)
    Looking forward to seeing your upcoming posts!

    I welcome you to check out my art blog, too!

    Mary C. Nasser

  2. What a wonderful blog you have Mary. It is an honor to be followed by you--of course I reciprocated. Loved your movie suggestions. Do you know the quilts of Valerie Goodwin--she is very interested in architecture and maps?

  3. Hi, Ann.
    Glad you enjoyed my blog and movie list.

    JUST found Valerie Goodwin's blog yesterday evening...was super-excited to see her cartographic quilts! Thank you for suggesting her to me.


  4. Ann, you make beautiful music! There is so much more than meets the eye in your work/art.

    Thanks for the info about the interviews. I've enjoyed hearing/reading them.

  5. I'm late to the party having just discovered your work and am intrigued with how you choose fabrics and colors for your quilts. I learned to appreciate grays when choosing colors for interior and exterior house paint. Aqua for a large bathroom had to be chosen from the grays in the middle of the fanning color chart. I love color, but grays work wonders.