Death and Fire: Dialogue with Paul Klee (1992)
Some years ago, I went to an exhibition on the painter Paul Klee at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Extremely moved, I decided to write a symphony, which unfolded like a discussion - a dialogue between myself and Klee’s paintings. Though, it is not in any sense a musical description of particular works, the symphony is constructed of many small sections reminiscent of Klee's method and imagined as a complete, continuous whole.
Klee was concerned with finding formal means to embody deep universal feelings without bitterness or pathos, using a sophisticated complexity to make a concentrated simplicity. Line, which in his thinking was associated both with melody and dynamics, was a major element in his work. This is closely related to the Chinese aesthetic, which is linear, non-harmonic, and seeks the soul of the work rather than its surface effects.