Pairing music with works from Owsley Museum of Art inspires immersive learning project

Topics: College of Fine Arts, Immersive Learning

April 15, 2014

Student Alyson Walbridge introduces Lee Krasner's painting Right Bird Left to the accompaniment of Leon Kirchner's Flutings for Paula.
Student Alyson Walbridge introduces Lee Krasner's painting Right Bird Left to the accompaniment of Leon Kirchner's Flutings for Paula.

A Ball State University immersive learning project will look at whether music changes the way museum visitors react to visual art.

Heather Platt, a professor in the School of Music, has encouraged one of her classes to explore the interpretive and creative connections between music and paintings through her Synergizing Music and Art project, the first immersive learning project at Ball State to feature courses in music history and musicology, the scholarly study of music.

Her students have chosen a diverse selection of music, from Vivaldi's second concerto from the Four Seasons to Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, pairing the pieces with artwork currently on display at Ball State's David Owsley Museum of Art. Their goal: To provide a unique, new way for patrons to interact with the two mediums.

It worked for Vincent Pucciarelli, a volunteer docent at the museum who was visiting on the day one of Platt's students, Alyson Walbridge, introduced Lee Krasner's painting Right Bird Left to the accompaniment of Leon Kirchner's Flutings for Paula. Walbridge invited Pucciarelli and others seated before the imposing artwork to consider the way the mysterious, tropical sounding trills of the music paired with Krasner's colorful expressionist style. Afterward, Pucciarelli said, "As a docent, I've looked at this particular painting dozens of times, but never the way I studied it while listening to that music. It was an entirely different experience for me."

As part of the project, the students’ work will be featured as part of a new self-guided tour the museum will offer beginning this summer. Their musical selections will be identified on labels alongside works of art, along with QR codes that can be scanned, allowing visitors to listen along as they, too, experience the synergy of the students' chosen music with the corresponding paintings.

"It will be a different kind of tour for our visitors," said Tania Said, the museum's director of education. "I expect the curious and musically inclined will be very pleased with another way of experiencing art."

Walbridge, a junior double majoring in history and art history, said the project has been a valuable learning experience for her.

"Exploring this idea of combining multiple senses while analyzing art work has helped me develop skills that will be crucial in my future career as an art historian," she explained. "Also, seeing and hearing other people's ideas as they developed helped to broaden my perspective on all things classical music, which—before this class—I knew nothing about."


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