February 9, 2010  |  Artists
Portrait in Seven Shades: Picasso


When Wynton Marsalis, the Music Director at Jazz at Lincoln Center, asked me to compose a long-form piece that could take any direction as long as it had a theme, it didn’t take me long to come up with a truly inspiring concept: music based on art. In Portrait in Seven Shades, each movement is dedicated to a different painter, and while it was hard to narrow my selection down to only seven artists, there were a few choices that were obvious to me—one of them being Picasso.

I think of Pablo Picasso as sort of the Miles Davis of the art world. He was responsible for the development of important movements like analytical and synthetic cubism, and his work became more daring and expressive as he got older. Miles, similarly, helped give birth to movements like bebop and modal jazz, and his music also became more daring with the development of fusion.

Picasso loved women and celebrated them in his work, but in Les Demoiselles d’Avignon he seems to depict women freely and in a less “romantic” light. With this painting Picasso overturned established conventions, and all that followed grew out of it; it is the precursor to his cubist work. With this in mind, I decided to approach “Picasso” differently from other movements. I composed the first section to reveal the romantic and expressive side of the man, and the second explodes out of this romantic setting and moves us to the bullfight. This movement embraces not only the emotional effect of Picasso’s paintings, but also the intellectual effect of his cubist style. Using the cubist theme, I explored the idea of fourths (four sides to a square) throughout the arrangement.