Not every artist can imbue a painting with music. The rhythm of a line or harmony in colour, perhaps… but that is the case with few truly fine painters. However, musicians who can seek and find melody in a painting and make it sing demands a special vision. The Modest Mussorgsky did that with Pictures at an Exhibition, a suite of fifteen movements, composed in 1874, contemporary composer Walter Steffens did so with his monumental works including Guernica and Other Paintings (Labor Records, 2009) and Joseph Daley did that very successfully too, but they is in a minority – slimmer than one would think. Other composers have often dared to interpret visual art. However, their success is questionable at best and often presumptuous and dull. Not Matthew Fries, though. His Parallel States, a collection of nine pieces inspired by the paintings of Loryn Spangler-Jones is altogether beautiful.
Matthew Fries touch is light and inspirational. He captures the lines of the paintings in graceful arcs, often suggesting melodies that bring to life the moist and mystical nature of the paintings themselves. Notes flutter and fly out of the speakers. Lines stretch into infinity when they are not sweeping and swing in graceful arcs. The rhythm of the painted line is perfectly maintained. Melodies are never crowded by too many notes. Fries’ pieces are awash with tonal colours that suggest melting emotions and while the titles of the pieces sometimes vary from the titles of the paintings, the music is filled with a certain joy that can only come from a musician who can conjure up visuals that appear before the listeners’ eyes like holographic images that mesmerise the senses.
Solo piano can be a lonely pursuit, but knowing Matthew Fries is writing or improvising to the flow of paintings made by his sister, Spangler-Jones gives you the sense that there is another person there in the room with him. Thus one can now understand the invisible harmony that exists between pianist and painting, which is translated into tumbling chords from a left hand that gently urges Fires’ right hand which seems to create endless angles and perspectives. The most priceless aspect of the recording is Matthew Fries’ ability to relocate the idiom of the canvas to the landscape of beautifully created music.
Track List: Muse; The Sweet Life; I Remember When; Positive Attitude; Garden; Whirl; The Man from Memphis; Just Keep Swimming; Kerrie.
Personnel: Matthew Fries: piano.
Label: Xcappa Records
Running time: 44:34