‘Soundscapes’ has commissioned musicians and sound artists to select a painting from the collection and compose a new piece of music or sound art in response. Immersive and site-specific, the experience encourages visitors to ‘hear’ the paintings and ‘see’ the sound.
The artists are:
#Nico_Muhly is a composer of chamber, orchestral, and sacred music, as well as opera and ballet. His work includes commissions from the Metropolitan Opera, English National Opera, New York City Ballet, St John’s College, Cambridge, and Wigmore Hall. Muhly’s chosen painting is The Wilton Diptych (about 1395–9).
#Susan_Philipsz is a Turner Prize-winning sound artist. Known for her installations that explore the relationship between sound and architecture, she has been presented at institutions across the world from MoMA to the Sydney Biennale. Philipsz’s chosen painting is Holbein’s Ambassadors (1533).
#Jamie_xx is a DJ, music producer, and member of Mercury Prize-winning band, The xx. His producer credits include collaborations with Drake, Rihanna, and Alicia Keys as well as ‘We’re New Here’, his reworking of Gil Scott-Heron’s last studio album. Jamie’s debut solo album ‘In Colour’ was released in June. Jamie’s chosen painting is Van Rysselberghe’s Coastal Scene (about 1892).
#Gabriel_Yared is an Oscar-winning film composer, whose work includes the scores for ‘Betty Blue’ (1986), ‘The English Patient’ (1996), ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’ (1999), and ‘Cold Mountain’ (2003). Yared’s chosen painting is Cézanne’s Bathers (about 1894–1905).
#Chris_Watson is one of the world’s leading recorders of wildlife and natural phenomena. He won BAFTA Awards for David Attenborough’s ‘Life’ and ‘Frozen Planet’ BBC series, and has worked on other major film, radio, and TV projects. Watson’s chosen painting is Gallen-Kallela’s Lake Keitele (1905).
#Janet_Cardiff and #George_Bures_Miller are internationally renowned installation and sound artists. Based in Grindrod, Canada, the duo incorporates audio tracks with installations to create three-dimensional spaces with sound. Cardiff and Miller’s chosen painting is Antonello da Messina’s Saint Jerome in his Study (about 1475).
Soundscapes is the worst idea the National Gallery has come up with in almost 200 years. It is feeble, pusillanimous, apologetic and, even in its resolute wrong-headedness, lacks all ambition. Invite a sound artist to compose a work in response to a masterpiece from the collection and you might expect something original, given all the precedents in music alone, from Rachmaninov’s Isle of the Dead and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition to Philip Glass’s piano portrait of Chuck Close. But instead this show feels more like the ambient soundtrack on a pair of National Trust headphones.