On Saturday, Feb. 3, Fargo’s Plains Art Museum hosted an art exhibition to showcase one of their five new exhibits that launched in the month of January, “Mark Applebaum: Picturing Music.”
This night was about Stanford University’s “Mad Scientist of Music” and his unique take on music composition.
Plains Art Museum director and CEO, Andrew J. Maus, opened the night by saying, “I feel like we’re living in a time when visual art, music and even education are being treated as commodities. And I also feel like we’re living in a time when many musicians and some visual artists, alike, are turning their backs on innovation to embrace popularity.”
This is simply not the case for Applebaum. “It is our natural behavior to improvise in life, and we do a lot of spontaneous things,” he remarked.
Applebaum created labyrinthine-like works of signs and symbols that can be played by musicians at their own discretion. His work is truly his own and was put forth into the world for other artists like him.
The professor of composition is known around the world for his ingenious notation and realization of music.
The thing that makes Applebaum special is that he has resurrected the art of creating his scores graphically, which can be viewed as pieces of art or can be used as functional music.
The Stanford professor began the program by discussing the determinacy and indeterminacy of music. The determinacy of music is the idea that traditional compositions are structured and there is no room for improvisation.
To explain the determinacy of music, Applebaum gave the example of Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 7” and said, “The viola player’s like, ‘I’m going to take a solo on that one.’ That doesn’t happen in a lot of traditions.”
Applebaum didn’t want to be confined to tradition, thus bringing him to composing his own music in his own way, even creating his own version of sign language to be inserted into his sheet music for his performers to read.
The exhibition was done in collaboration with Minnesota State University Moorhead’s Department of Music.
Individuals from the department were selected to perform Applebaum’s work in the showcase, a feat that requires absolute talent as the professor warned that memorization of his compositions were not easy. The students’ interpretation was performed effortlessly.
Applebaum is unlike any other modern composer because he does not rely on standardized notation, but rather has created a language of his own — a language that combines visual art and music.
Applebaum’s “Picturing Music” will be featured until June 9. The Plains Art Museum will be hosting another exhibit of Applebaum’s “The Metaphysics of Music,” from 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 1, which will feature the improvisational interpretations of the Fargo-Moorhead symphony.