My musical composition, “Calm Before the Storm,” was inspired by Mark Rothko’s later work (1957-1969). For me, Rothko’s work from this period, particularly his painting, “Black, Red and Black,” possesses a great sense of foreboding and uneasiness, with which I can identify. The feeling of something approaching–dark clouds, depression, alienation–saturates this work, and it is this impending darkness I try to convey musically.
Rothko bares his soul, and also seems to scrutinize our reactions to his painting; he invites us in, but with stipulations to the invitation. In his own words, “A picture lives by companionship, expanding and quickening in the eyes of the sensitive observer. It dies by the same token. It is therefore risky to send it out into the world. How often it must be impaired by the eyes of the unfeeling and the cruelty of the impotent”(Barbara Hess, Abstract Expressionism). On February 25, 1970, at age 66, Mark Rothko was found dead in his Manhattan studio. He had overdosed on barbiturates and slashed an artery in his right arm with a razor blade.
For me, Rothko’s later paintings and my composition, “Calm Before the Storm,” are not so much about the storm itself, but the suffocating pull toward the blade.
Robert R. Thurman‘s music has been used in numerous exhibitions and projects including “The Next Tortured Genius,” Monkdogz Urban Art, Chelsea, New York; “Bodies of Sound,” Postcrypt Gallery, Columbia University; “Under The Radar,” Contemporary Urban Center, London; “Stan Brakage Project,” Silent Media, Taos, New Mexico; and “Sound Of IT 3: Works In The Spirit Of John Cage,” Garage 4141, San Diego, CA.