Liminal space is that threshold space which is between one state of being and another. It is a necessary aspect of rites of passage. Emotions in the liminal space probably range from curious but anxious to terrified. Artists are regularly in liminal space. They are regularly between one state of being and another. I can’t imagine being happy to be in liminal space.
Or can I? The image on the left is one from a recent set of eco prints from a process I’m trying to develop. It is nothing but a few leaves and stalks, in reality.
There is however another reality that compels me to this image. It is an image of a past landscape yet to be reached. Yes, I know that’s contradictory. It is about a future place that is a return to a certain past. More contradiction. So as my own onlooker I’m standing in liminal space looking across at a place that is familiar to me that I’ve never been before. Contradiction three.
I’m reminded of Schumann’s (1810-1856) Leiderkreis (which I’ve had a go at singing). Here’s a bit of a translation of the lyrics to the opening song of the cycle. The cycle is set to a poem by Joseph von Eichendorff.
In der Fremde (In a Foreign Land)*
Joseph von Eichendorff (1788-1857)
From my homeland, …,
The clouds come drifting in,
Now no one knows me there.
My favourite song from the Leiderkreis cycle is the fifth: Mondnacht. Expressed in both poem and musical composition is a liminal state. (It’s also the most difficult in the cycle to sing, in my not-so-humble opinion). Here’s a translation of the last verse of Mondnacht:
Mondnacht (Moonlit Night)*
And my soul spread
Her wings out wide,
Flew across the silent land,
As though flying home.
These sentiments echo the sentiments expressed in my third paragraph above. About how I feel when looking out over, from my liminal space, a new landscape that is yet strangely home. And know this landscape can only be mapped poetically, which prospect makes me, yes, happy. Because I know that the only true map of a place is the poetic one.
I’m reminded also of the work of the 19th century German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840). He advised the painter, ” … close your bodily eye so that you may see your picture first with the spiritual eye.”
What has all this to do with …”the Prepared Piano and Indeterminacy”?”
The prepared piano is generally considered to have been the development of John Cage. It is a piano which has had objects (preparations) placed on or between the piano’s strings. This results in these strings, when the key is struck, producing a sound that is unexpected. In some cases, a sound will not repeat when the same key is struck again, depending on whether the pedal is used. (Bit woolly on that, look it up for yourself).
Is it that the listener (not having prepared ears?) will not hear what he/she is expecting? Will it therefore be indeterminate, holding our listener forever in liminal space? Maybe unresolved would be a better word to use. Whether indeterminate and unresolved can be termed parallels in Indeterminacy is a different argument.
Please feel free to argue with me. I know very little about music composition. I’ve just moved from that particular liminal space to begin studying it. Is there a Music Composition for Dummies? Yes, there is and it’s too advanced for me. And so I’m starting here: The Art of Composing. While reading Music Theory for Dummies, which is not too advanced for me.
And I want to study these things in part because the principles of music theory and music composition are the same as those of visual art. For instance, silence in music becomes space in the visual arts.
Is your artwork inspired by music theory and composition? I’d like to know.
Not a very quick note, then. That’ll teach me a lesson for hanging out with German Romantics.