“Helen Fischer’s work Untitled Abstraction invites us into an unexpected and alluring textural space with a limited color palette and segmented shapes. The shapes in the painting are treated like sonic cobblestones in the music. A scratchy, wispy synthesized tone suggests both the air and bow of wind and string, meant to capture the brushstrokes between the shapes.
“Closely-spaced musical intervals (the major second in the sound for instance that begins the piece) in the synthesizer chords, and changing sonorities in the electric guitar containing the dissonant interval of either a minor 9th or minor 2nd, seek to mirror the feeling of a sort of abstract and austere beauty prevalent in the painting. Depending on the chord voicing, some sound more or less dissonant, yet each is not connected in a typical musical phrase.
“The sounds are meant to be representative of a painting that is non-representational. ‘Abstract music’ is the goal and feeling, yet still with unexpected and hidden beauty. The tone of the electric guitar is meant to evoke the round shapes and ovals of the work. Rather than melodic content per se, the musical piece uses blocks of odd and sometimes angular harmonies, hanging in air, moving one to the next.”
About the Artwork
Date: ca. 1960
Artist: Helen Fischer, American, 1920-1961
Medium: Oil on canvas
Credit Line: Gift of the artist
Object Number: 1960/1.541
Collection of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts – Visit website
About the Musician
Elden Kelly is a guitarist exploring the intersection of jazz, classical and world music. He also works as singer-songwriter, composer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist, spanning the genres of contemporary improvisation, fusion, sound design and global styles.
Kelly holds a Master of Music degree from Michigan State and a Bachelor of Music degree from New England Conservatory of Music. He is the instructor of Jazz Guitar at Kalamazoo College.