The Mondrians is a collaborative sound project based on the work of dutch artist and theoretician Piet Mondrian (1872-1944). A leading painter of the De Stijl movement, and outspoken proponent of what he termed 'neoplasticism' in the arts, Mondrian was one of the key figures of 20th century art. For The Mondrians, twenty contemporary electronic musicians and sound artists were presented with a simple premise: reimagine the Mondrian painting of your choice as a graphic score, and rigorously interpret it. There was no right or wrong way to approach this project, only an admonition to work directly from a reproduction of the painting itself. The result is a strange and unclassifiable collection of musique concrete, microtonal electronics and ambient abstractions that allow us to contemplate, as through a distorted prism, the work of one of the 20th century's most revolutionary artists.
A key inspiration for many of the musicians involved in the early stages of this project was the following proposal: 'Imagine you have been asked to describe, in full, the spatial and chromatic aspects of this painting to a blind person using only sound.' Direct responses to this challenge can be heard in the methodical severity of works by Khyex, Chris Harris, and PrOphecy Sun, in which the chosen paintings have been approached cartographically; every chromatic and spatial detail noted and accounted for. A second branch of contributors chose to meet the project's challenge halfway, extrapolating their own musical ideas from a close reading of the painting without necessarily replicating its every move (see Ian William Craig, Norm Chambers, and Benoit Pioulard). And finally, there are those interpretations born strictly of the artist's imagination, like C. Diab's ambitious attempt to burrow inside the mindset of Mondrian as he painted 'Composition in Line, 1916' or TUAM's complex reimagining of 'Broadway Boogie Woogie' as a towering Ballardian highrise.
A painter of traditional landscapes in his youth, Mondrian would continue to claim nature as his primary inspiration until the end of his life. To discard the outward appearance of realism in favor of primary colours and vertical/horizontal lines was, for him, not a rejection of the natural world, but a step closer to what he perceived as its fundamental attributes. He dreamed of a universal aesthetic language that would one day allow artists to better communicate the spiritual unity underpinning the world around them. The Mondrians engages with this utopian vision by imagining a world in which such a language had come into being, a renaissance in sensory perception allowing everyday people access to a synesthesiastic view of the world. What would such a people hear in Mondrian's work, and how would they express it? What would red, blue and yellow sound like? The question is a quixotic puzzle, and the 20 pieces contained on this compilation can no more answer it than lead become gold or 2 + 2 yield 5. But somewhere in the absurdity of the attempt lies a trace of Mondrian's dream.
All works composed 2017-18 for Hotham Sound Recordings.
Mastered by Joshua Stevenson at Otic Sound, Vancouver, B.C.