I Spy

A few days ago, I went to Naples for the weekend with a few Fellows from the AAR: the photographer Tim Davis, his wife, the painter Lisa Sanditz, and the architect duo Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo.

Exploring Naples with visual artists allowed me to see things I would have easily missed on my own. They wandered around the chaotic, brilliant city, and I followed them, wanting to perceive this world through their eyes. I began to realize that they would often shift from being completely open to whatever they discovered to single-mindedly pursuing a theme: Tim became fascinated with torn blue-tinged posters of Italian politicians.

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Photo by Tim Davis

Daniel and Annie searched for crèches—those glass-encased homages to Jesus, Mary, and various saints.

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Photo by Tim Davis

We started documenting the bottom of every espresso, unsure whether for divination or purely aesthetic purposes.

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Photo by Tim Davis

The whole weekend was fun and easy, but I felt their surge of energy every time we stepped out of the hotel. Being in a new environment was work—a chance to discover new colors, processes, spaces, materials, angles.

How does such an environment affect a composer? How do we translate what we see into music, the most abstract of all art fields?

Is it true that every movement in music follows a similar trend in art and literature? Is it because composers hang out with artists who show them things they wouldn’t notice themselves? Similarly, do composers show artists things?

I wonder if Scarlatti trailed the baroque master Luca Giordano and his peeps through the cramped streets of La Sanità, the impossibly cramped, anarchistic, wildly vibrant neighborhood of Naples?

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