From the Eyes to the Ears was composed in three movements, each being inspired by a painting by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. The first movement is an aural representation of the painting, “The Scream”. The opening violoncello rhythmic pattern creates the underlying tension in the scene with glissandi suggesting the scream. Flautando violins depict the setting sun and introduce the musical material for development in the movement. An accompaniment derived from major and minor seconds, the predominant interval of the movement, represents the friends and their perceived reality. The melody maintains the beauty and simplicity of the scene which is viewed by all except the main character, but the serenity is interrupted by the scream. The melody returns, but tension is mounting and the accompaniment becomes progressively more intense. Eventually the scream dominates and the tension continues to the end of the movement.
The second movement was inspired by the painting “Melancholy” and consists primarily of haunting melody. The perpetual motion of the ocean in the scene and the insistent passage of time are suggested by the pizzicato violoncello pattern which predominates in this movement. Against this, the melody sighs and laments, consumed by feelings of melancholy. In the middle of the movement, the memory of a woman produces an unexpected departure from the prevailing mood, with a reference to a joyful dance. The memory fades and the melancholic feelings return.
The painting “The Dance of Life” was the inspiration for the final movement of the string quartet. The movement is primarily a waltz, however, rhythmic and melodic mutations create a more complex and unpredictable dance. The meter undulates between 3/4 and 2/4 which creates an unbalanced flow and complements the dreamlike scene. The melody alternates between the violins and this also contributes to the unsettling nature of the movement. From the painting, the entrance of the smiling blond-haired woman is represented by the quick pizzicato dance section after which the waltz resumes. This woman’s presence is maintained with sudden references to her dance, but despite the interruptions the waltz continues. The presence of the woman dressed in black is referred to at the end of the movement by the slow funeral-like processional music which closes the work.
Instrumentation: String Quartet
Duration: 14 minutes