More and more, books themselves are more than just books. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Can You Hear It? is a book with a CD in which works of music are paired with works of visual art in ways that offer the opportunity to enjoy each work more fully. The Hiroshige print Chrysanthemums, which features a hovering bee, illuminates a recording of Flight of the Bumblebee. A movement from Copland’s Billy the Kid accompanies a Frederic Remington painting. The text of Can You Hear It? invites the reader/listener to look for elements in the works of art and, at the same time, to listen for particular motives or allusions within the sound recordings. Listen for a bit of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” within Saint-Saëns’s “Fossils” from The Carnival of the Animals. That piece of music is offered in juxtaposition with The Calavera of Cupid by José Guadalupe Posada. The end result is that both works are expanded.
Can You Hear It? is a little bit Music and Make Believe, a little bit art appreciation, and a lot of interesting fun. You’ll hear the familiar and, most likely, something new. The sailor/composer Rimsky-Korsakov experienced keys as colors. The key of C for him was white (not surprising, I suppose, if you look at the piano keyboard) while B major was a “gloomy dark blue with a steel shine”. Synesthetic or not, there’s a certain purity in listening to music without including any visual programming. You can paint your own pictures in your mind. On the other hand, since many people use music as a kind of background dressing anyway, there’s a kind of potentially rewarding discipline in choosing the visual foreground in a very intentional way. Either road you choose, you'll find lots of good material here.
Can You Hear It?