Can Ekphrasis Be Applied to Art and Music?

As I read Mitchell’s “Ekphrasis & the Other” I couldn’t help but mutter “duh.” Ekphrasis, which can be simply defined as a verbal representation of a visual, is a practice we students have been using since we learned how to write.

“Hw would you describe this flower?” a teacher may ask, to which we would responds, “It has red petals and a green stem.”

However, the more I read about ekphrasis and the more I began thinking about ekphrasis as a complication or a mixing of representations (image vs. language), I began to wonder what others mixings could be made to create a new perspective. Could I use dance to represent a body of text? What about painting to represent music?

Take for example “Burning Down the House” by Martin Klimas. In this piece of artwork, Klimas chose to visualize sound. More specifically, Klimas reinterpreted the music of Jimi Hendrix into a visual piece. This visual representation of music, called visual music art, is similar to ekphrasis, and how writers turn image into text.

Burning Down the House by Martin Klimas

The result of Klimas’s interpretation (in my opinion) is both striking and beautiful. It gives the viewer a whole new perspective on “Burning Down the House.”

Exploring visual music art helped me better appreciate ekphrasis. Ekphrasis is not just a retelling or a description of an image, it is a reimagination.

2 Replies to “Can Ekphrasis Be Applied to Art and Music?”

  1. Laura,

    I love your point about ekphrasis stretching across the different mediums. Again it speaks to the expansive definition of illustration that goes much beyond the typically thought of visual art. When I was doing a little research on ekphrasis after class I also came across it being expressed in music as well. It was something I found curious about and really appreciate the image you included in your post. It made me think of other examples of musical ekphrasis, famously Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata which he composed with the image of a boat floating in the moonlight on water in mind. His work would later go on to inspire not just other composers but poets as well. Ekphrasis really is a reimagination of one medium in another.

  2. I also found this post to be very interesting. In class it never crossed my mind that one could interpret ekphrasis in the context of music, and I think the visual representation of an audible work of art is extremely fascinating. In just looking at the “Burning Down the House” image, I never would have guessed it was a representation of music. This post made me realize that a multitude of mediums leads to endless interpretations and perceptions of art, which allows viewer’s to expand their imagination.

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