The Yale University Art Gallery hosted “Playing Images: An Exploration of Music and Art” on Sunday, a concert designed to bring together visual and performance art.
Pairing objects in the galleries with related musical pieces, Sunday’s event was designed to give visitors a chance to look closely at art while listening to live music by the Haven String Quartet. Jessica Sack, the YUAG’s senior associate curator of public education — one of the project’s creators, who also participated in the event — said that “Playing Images” helps attendees experience the gallery’s collection in a novel way.
“This is a chance for the audience to think about their own experience of listening and looking,” Sack explained. “The combination of music and image allows us to see new things that we wouldn’t have been able to do if they hadn’t been combined.”
Sunday’s performance was centered on “Mt. Ktaadn,” a landscape by 19th-century painter Frederic Edwin Church, on display in the gallery’s American Paintings wing. The painting was paired with several music pieces, including Benjamin Britten’s “String Quartet No. 1 in D major,” said Yaira Matyakubova MUS ’06, a member of the Haven String Quartet.
During the performance, Sack explained, the audience is asked to consider the relation between the works of art they are observing and the pieces of music being played. She added that each musical performance seeks to highlight different aspects of the art object, with the quartet beginning with an excerpt of music, followed by contrasting excerpts and eventually the full movement.
“First, we ask the audience to look at the artwork, then we have them listen to an excerpt of the music, [and] then we have them think about the connection between what they heard and what they saw,” Sack said. “We then perform a contrasting piece of the movement, and think about what new things people saw in the artwork … Finally, the quartet performs the full movement while everybody looks at the painting, as well as [several others in the gallery].”
Initially a biannual event, such performances now take place a few times throughout the year, highlighting special installations or bringing attention to particular aspects of the YUAG’s collection. Joellen Adae, the gallery’s director of communications, noted that the event’s popularity has increased since its inception several years ago.
Adae added that the concerts, which feature a new program each time they are held, attract a variety of visitors, including “drop-in” visitors who happen to be in the gallery while the performances are taking place.
“Offering an encore presentation on Sunday afternoon … attracts a broad crowd of families, members of the general public and folks who cannot make it to the gallery for programs during the workday,” Adae explained. “[And] visitors hearing music in the galleries always attracts some drop-in attendees and onlookers and piques curiosity.”
The Yale University Art Gallery is located at 1111 Chapel St.