The visual arts and the sonic arts arrive to us from a distance, via electromagnetic radiation or fluctuations in air pressure, but taste and smell require direct contact. Philosophers have long debated whether the fundamentally different nature of these chemical senses precludes the elaboration of an art of ideas based on them, something that goes beyond the ancient and sophisticated traditions of perfumery or cuisine.
It’s easy to recognize several time scales to a meal, from the succession of courses (even simply saving dessert for last) to the entropy that occurs as a hot dish cools or a frozen dish melts to the succession of individual bites. Recognizing these time scales is straightforward, but synchronizing music to them is a much trickier proposition.
A distinction needs to be made between music that uses a work of visual art as a source of inspiration and music that has been envisioned expressly for the purpose of illuminating, commenting upon, and conversing with visual art—music where viewing the art while listening to the music is, in some sense, essential to the full realization of the composer’s vision.
The Foundation has announced that it will award a total of five commissions for the creation of new musical works. The commissions, awarded to both American and international composers, are granted jointly by the foundation and the performing organizations (also both American and international) that will present performances of the newly composed works.