Ode to Joy

Years ago my son’s interest in mathematics inspired me to translate numbers into a color algorithm. I assigned colors to digits and charted out irrational numbers like Pi and Euler’s and found not only patterns, but also a certain cadence within the string of numbers. I thought I could apply the same technique to music and assigned a color to each note in Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ode to Joy for the Aspen Music Festival’s celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday. The palette on the cover was inspired by summers past and present listening to music on the great lawn outside of the tent. I started my composition with an informal grid to suggest a sheet of music. In order to emphasize the variation within each note and color, I gave each its own mark and saturation — so an individual note is a painting within itself. For example, the note A was inspired by aspen bark; E belongs to the wild grasses and C# is the mature olive green that rests in stem and leaf. Before my parents relocated to Woody Creek in 1979, their home was on Pitkin Green, now Willoughby Way, at the base of Red Mountain. At least once a week we would ford the Roaring Fork on large slick rocks, to picnic outside the music tent. Sometimes a bottle of wine or cheese or a baguette would slip out of a backpack and get fished from the river with great fanfare but the journey was always a cause for celebration. We would feast, listen and read, and when I grew restless I would explore the surrounding domesticated and wild landscapes. I love that listening to music under the aspens remains one of the valley’s most cherished traditions. It was a joy to celebrate both the music and the place in this painting.

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