Experimental artist merges music and visuals

While the fields of music composition and visual art may seem disparate to some, experimental artist and composer Marina Rosenfeld’s art attempts to weave a dialogue between the two.

Rosenfeld, a New York-based artist and professor at Bard College, discussed the possibility of a creative synthesis of music and visuals before an audience of about 30 Yale students and faculty in a Monday afternoon lecture at the School of Art. A graduate of the California Institute of the Arts, Rosenfeld showed photographs of her installations and played recordings of her music in an attempt to explain her hybrid conception of art.

“I want to stab the eye of the viewer,” Rosenfeld said. “I take two most incompatible works and make them communicate with each other.”

Reflecting on her childhood training as a pianist, Rosenfeld said she felt music was lacking something as a venue of expression. Fascinated by the relationship any piece of art generates between the artist and the viewer, Rosenfeld said she sought to combine different artistic media in order to trace the dual experience of creating and viewing art.

Yet Rosenfeld said that in the past, she often felt a lack of audience for her hybrid artistry.

“I couldn’t attract an audience, and an artist needs an audience,” she said. “So I instead decided to create work out of the audience that I like.”

Through communication with several young amateurs interested in experimenting with art, Rosenfeld conceived projects such as “Teenage Lontano,” an adaptation of György Ligeti’s ethereal 1967 musical work “Lontano.”

“Teenage Lontano,” which Rosenfeld said is perhaps her most famous work, is based on her wish to convey the experience of “hearing someone hear.” Its performance consists of around 30 teens in a row listening to their music players, either alone or in pairs, listening to parts of Ligeti’s original song and singing along according to Rosenfeld’s prerecorded cues. The audience cannot hear what the teenagers hear, but can hear their responses to it.

“It might seem at first glance that ‘Teenage Lontano’ has no connection with visual art, but it does,” Rosenfeld explained. “My ‘Lontano’ explores the spatial nature of music. This idea of creating my own, modified versions of other artists’ works communicates to me and my audience the all-important question of reception — of what is going on when we listen, experience or think about art.”

Attendees had a wide range of opinions about Rosenfeld’s lecture.

Stephanie Adcock ’15 said she found Rosenfeld’s compositions “uninspiring,” adding that Rosenfeld’s attempt to combine music composition and visual media results in art that is heavily mismatched.

Others, including Jessica Tordoff ’15, said they were intrigued by Rosenfeld’s aesthetic and view of art.

“She is bold, and she is not afraid to do things differently,” Tordoff said. “These are the most important qualities in an artist, and I think Rosenfeld is employing them well.”

Rosenfeld’s other projects include the Sheer Frost Orchestra, a graphically scored musical installation performed by 17 women on floor-bound electric guitars, using nail polish bottles as sensitive sound-producing implements.

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