The cross section between visual art and music, for classical pianist Yelena Beriyeva, is in many ways second nature.
“What is in common between [visual] artists and musicians is they all get to create,” Beriyeva said.
In the spring of 2016, visual artists came together to attend a performance of classical composer Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.”
From the artists present at the workshop, and many more, over 40 inspired pieces of visual art were born. On Nov. 5, 2016 at Jenkins Auditorium at Malden High School, Beriyeva performed the renowned “Pictures at an Exhibition” to the backdrop of all the work created from the artists using the music as inspiration.
The interesting part is Mussorgsky’s piece, Beriyeva said, was first inspired by visual art. With the passing of an artist friend, Mussorgsky wrote “Pictures at an Exhibition” through the careful study of his late friend’s artwork.
“[Mussorgsky] basically dedicated this piece to a friend he lost to a sickness,” Beriyeva said. “We did it in the reverse. We tried to paint based on music.”
At the reception displaying the resulting body of work on Jan. 5, 2017, many of the artists explained how the exercise of painting to music opened up their horizons.
“Adding the multimedia piece makes it also much richer,” said Ose Schwab, a Neighborhood View Journalist and coordinator for the event. “To listen to music while you’re seeing art, your brain can make different kinds of connections.”
Schwab said artists reported “Pictures at an Exhibition” grew on them, even if they didn’t consider themselves regular classical music listeners.
“I do think that a few of them have said they couldn’t get the piece out of their head,” Schwab said. “The fact that they were going to create art to it meant that they had to listen to it again and again and again.”
Beriyeva, who said she has always wanted to have a chance to perform the piece, said this event was inspired by a similar happening she experienced when she was much younger. Artists listened live to a performance of “Pictures at an Exhibition” while creating on the spot.
Malden City Mayor Gary Christenson was in attendance at the original performance and for the reception. The event proved, Christenson said, that Malden is a community which benefits from a robust artist community.
“It’s a feeling of being proud and grateful because the one thing i’ve seen over my time as mayor is we cannot do it alone,” Christenson said. “We need people who are dedicated like Ose and Yelena and all the people who are at access here tonight.”
When asked about how Malden supports the arts, Christenson said he sees a deeper future collaboration.
Amid budget concerns, previous plans to create a town staff position which would act as a support for the arts has been put on the back burner.
“There should be, and because of our ongoing budget problems over the past couple of years we haven’t been able to do it,” Christenson said. “If our fortunes are ever to turn, that’s one initiative that I would like to see funded in the city budget.”
Given recent events such as the Orlando night club shooting and racially-motivated killings such as that of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Christenson said seeing a multimedia event which displayed the same diversity as the community which he serves is heartening.
“This took people from every religion, culture, race, and brought them all together for a common purpose,” Christenson said. “Despite what was happening, this was our response to it, among other things.”
For Schwab, the event gave artists an opportunity to take an oftentimes rare break from a faster, more digitally-paced society.
“I think having something where you have to sink your teeth into something is really important, especially today when everything is so fast moving,” Schwab said. “I think the cross of music-to- art, art-to-music is very powerful, and many of the artists said they were glad to have this experience.”