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October 9, 2017 | by  | in Visual Arts | [ssba]

Art Conversation with Ngaromaki

When I talked with a musician about visual art, I should have known that the music would creep into everything, but there’s not always much to gain by keeping them so separate.

I ask what his earliest memory of art is anyway.

There was a really old painting that my mother had on the wall, a weird kind of Victorian painting with a white-skinned lady, skin almost like porcelain. No matter which house we lived in, we always had this, and it was one of the only things that remained consistent. I remember looking up at it, and wondering who the Victorian woman was. Who painted her? How many other people have looked up at it as well?


Later, he tells me that it belonged to his grandmother. She died in a fire and his mother held onto the painting.

I guess art is sometimes all that is left of someone when they leave.


What sort of visual art do you like?

I was always around the music side of art from a really young age, but I never had much exposure to visual art. I like performance art though. I like its intensity, the performances I’ve seen have made me cry, and it was crazy how much they could say by just by moving their bodies. I think that is a common thing between the sonic aspects of music, rather than lyrically, and visual arts, is that recognition of a tone or a mood.

Maybe we could talk about soundtracks. I want to make music for films, and especially explore how it can convey motion and atmosphere.


He lists off the skeleton of a score: cello, violins, viola, horns. It is like he breathes in chords, rather than oxygen, and I can’t keep up.

Our brains pick up on the distances of the notes played, and we hear it as major or minor, uplifting or sad. Without knowing anything about someone, you can affect them by only playing these sounds. For this, I really like science fiction films, I’m watching this one called Primo. The music is really interesting because they use it in an opposite way to most movies, they use a lot of silence. It’s a very lonely film, and the lack of music encourages the loneliness — does that make sense?


I’m still trying to talk about visual art. He keeps twirling his pen and every few twirls loses balance of it and it clacks against my laptop. When I listen back to the audio of our conversation, there the clacking noise is! I guess a musician cannot help but infiltrate a visual arts discussion with his own sounds.

Once, I wrote a song that was the music portrayal of a painting, [Vincent Van Gogh’s] A Starry Night. We had to do a description of each part, and I illustrated certain things; the mid to treble range motifs were mimicking the swirling stars at the top.


I ask about the textures of his composition. I always want to know how something would feel — could you graze your knuckles on it, or would it smother you in thick honey?

It was kind of ambient, sort of echoes too, and it was really all over the place, like the painting. Some songs I think omit colour, and this piece really makes me feel like night, with its ups and downs. I think I have no choice, I have to make music.

The whole world is too quiet.


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