Visual arts, music to combine in open art show at TASI in November

Wassily Kandinsky’s “Composition VIII,” from 1923.

Sound/In-Sight opens at the Studio, Nov. 4, curated by tenant artist Andy Coughlan in collaboration with music composers Austin Franklin and Tommy McPhee. The show is unique in that artists were asked to create artwork based on musical compositions.

Coughlan sought open submissions and, at press time, it was unknown how many artists would finally submit work for the project.

“The concept began with an idea from a couple of years ago,” Coughlan said. “When George Wentz passed away I curated a collaborative show based upon his poetry. It was such a wonderful and moving show, I took the idea and ran with it.

“I thought it would be great idea to get some Lamar students to compose some music, that in turn, could be used to inspire someone to create a piece of art.”

Coughlan, who cites Russian Modernist artist Wassily Kandinsky among his influences, borrowed the idea Kandinsky used when he collaborated with composer Arnold Schoenberg to create a series of pieces based on the “impressions or compositions” Kandinsky had formed in his mind of the musical pieces.

Kandinsky, when asked about what he feels or sees when composing music, said, “Color is a keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.”

These impressions of Kandinsky’s became a philosophical manifesto of sorts to his concept that artists and art were often the product of a spiritual awakening or connections.

“I think of all art in much the same way,” Coughlan said. “When I see a painting, I might think of music, or when I read poetry I might think of a painting. I see and feel different ways of looking at art, and music is always a part of it for me.”

Austin Franklin

Composer Austin Franklin was a Lamar senior when he composed the piece and is now in the composition program at Louisiana State University pursuing a master’s in composition.

“My professor Nick Rissman put me in touch with Andy,” Franklin said. “I had been experimenting with different aspects of composition like atonal music and worked on applying the concept to this project.”

Franklin’s piece, “Seventh Wave,” is an atonal piece that follows along with what he was working on for his senior recital, and it was natural for him to carry those ideas over.

The idea for the piece came when he was on vacation with family. One night, as he was watching the shoreline, he thought about an old sailor’s myth that waves travel in series of sevens and the seventh is always the strongest.

He explained that there are 12 tones in an octave that are generally played following an orderly sequence, whereas in atonal music the 12 tones are played out of sequence or order so there is not always a distinct melody and composers aren’t just writing chords.

Tommy McPhee

Composer Tommy McPhee said he is interested in how the exhibition is going to be set up. Both composers plan to attend the exhibition’s open night to talk with artists and guests about the work they have done.

“My expectation is that I’ll be able to see something tangible, a collaboration, an expression of someone else’s reality,” McPhee said.

McPhee and Franklin have not met and did not hear each other’s compositions prior to the open call for artists. Coughlan said he ended up using both the artists’ work because the more he thought about the project, the more he thought it would be interesting to see multiple interpretations.

“I thought since they put in the effort to compose works, I would take them both and present the idea for the show with artists having to choose between the two compositions — or even draw from both,” Coughlan said. “I think each one is interesting on its own and I think it is interesting to see what interpretations people take from these compositions.”

Coughlan said he has not decided exactly how the show will be set up.

“I have to wait and see what comes in and then I’ll decide,” he said. “I plan on having the musical compositions play on a loop in the background during the show opening. I feel my creativity in this exhibit will be to present a cohesive and interesting show that looks good.

“The most exciting thing I’m looking forward to is seeing the variations on a theme that people are coming up with to create their artwork. Exhibitions are a lot like gardening. In this instance the songs are the soil, and the artists creating pieces are planting the seeds to see what ideas grow in the garden.”

  The exhibition will be displayed until Nov. 24 with an opening reception Nov. 4 from 7-10 p.m. The show is free to the public.

To hear the compositions, visit

Story by Stephan Malick, ISSUE staff writer