Sunday, May 13, 2012

Light and Shade: Domino

Painters and other visual artists will, in the process of creation, discover something – a technique, an image detail, color combinations, shapes – that intrigue them and lead them into exploration in their next works. All creative artists look at other artists’ work, at life around them or deep inside themselves and discover something that intrigues them. They will absorb it, play with it and reinterpret it, make it their own and let it come out in their subsequent work. Thus the artistic products evolve. It has ever been so with all artwork, and students of the various artistic mediums can follow the evolution of the inspiration from artist to artist, and within one artist’s work.

Once Led Zeppelin was formed and Jimmy Page was able to become fully creative with his own music we can more clearly hear his exploration of themes and pushing of the musical envelope that is so characteristic of his musical genius. Expression of “light and shade” has always been a fundamental part of Mr. Page’s music. He may have picked up the term during his time at art school, although the use of light and shade to provide contrast is a concept used in all forms of art. Unlike in life when things may be much the same for long periods of time, an artist has control over the use of contrast to bring focus to and highlight certain areas of the work.

Painting:  Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette, 1885–1886, oil on canvas, Van Gogh Museum
Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette,1885–1886, oil on canvas, Van Gogh Museum
In music, the technique of light and shade may be brought about through changes in volume, tone, rhythm and speed, the use of different instruments, of melody versus chorus, and various other techniques. Jimmy Page uses every means in his considerable arsenal to achieve contrast with just one musical instrument - his guitar - intensifying the depth of his music to an incredible degree. Part of the magic of his music is in his use of light and shade, which draws us in and delivers us to the heights and depths of Mr. Page’s inner vision.

One of the light and shade areas that Jimmy Page appears to be drawn to is that of allowing his music to rise from a version of drone. In music, drone is a note or chord that is continuously sounded throughout most or all of a piece. We know that Middle Eastern tuning is one of the techniques Page uses (Kashmir, discussed last week, being a great example); drone originated in instrumental music of southwestern Asia and spread to Europe, India and Africa.  It can be used to evoke an emotional atmosphere, which we see Mr. Page do to great effect, such as can be heard in in Domino (1999), where sometimes the extended low growl of the guitar’s chords is used as a drone and other places it is the memory of the drone and the return to it that gives the impression of drone.

Domino YouTube video:

Page’s melodies rise out of the drone effect throughout Domino, and using light/shade, he returns to the drone again and again to give the mind rest before the contrast of the notes that rise like a fiery phoenix from the dark.

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