Last fall, seven Harvard undergraduates in Professor Richard Beaudoin’s course on music composition took on an exciting assignment: to compose short works inspired by art from the Harvard Art Museums collections. In February, those compositions received their first public audience at a concert titled “Sounding Art,” held in the museums’ Calderwood Courtyard.
Cellist Neil Heyde of London’s Royal Academy of Music performed the pieces by students Eric Corcoran, Sumire Hirotsuru, Auburn Lee, Cynthia Meng, Samuel Pottash, Brandon Snyder, and Fraser Wiest. Before Heyde played the pieces, each student composer spoke briefly about how his or her piece related to the collections. The compositions ranged in style from classical to jazz to atonal. Heyde bookended the student works with two different performances of Morton Feldman’s 1950 Projection 1, an iconic American composition notated on graph paper that changes each time it is played.
As the afternoon program concluded, Professor Beaudoin encouraged the audience to visit the University Study Gallery on Level 3, where they could view works that inspired the student compositions, including Glenn Ligon’s 2004 print Self-Portrait at Eleven Years Old and Fantin-Latour’s 1894 drawing Music and Poetry.
The event was representative of “everything we do as a teaching museum,” said Laura Muir, the research curator for academic and public programs. “The concert was rooted in our collections and engaged students, faculty, and the public in an interactive moment tied to teaching, learning, and close looking.”