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Sound Thoughts on Art

The arts can engage all our senses, but it’s in the crossover between them that things really get interesting. When we listen to music, what do we see in our mind’s eye? When we look at a work of art, what do we hear? Sound Thoughts on Art, a new podcast from the National Gallery of Art, explores the intersection of sight and sound.

Hosted by musician and journalist Celeste Headlee, each episode focuses on a work of art in the National Gallery’s collection. Learn about the work and its context and hear a musician respond to that work through sound, creating a dialogue between visual art and music. Sound Thoughts on Art tells the stories of how we experience art and how it connects us.

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The arts can engage all our senses, but it’s in the crossover between them that things really get interesting. When we listen to music, what do we see in our mind’s eye? When we look at a work of art, what do we hear? Sound Thoughts on Art, a new podcast from the National Gallery of Art, explores the intersection of sight and sound.

Hosted by musician and journalist Celeste Headlee, each episode focuses on a work of art in the National Gallery’s collection. Learn about the work and its context and hear a musician respond to that work through sound, creating a dialogue between visual art and music. Sound Thoughts on Art tells the stories of how we experience art and how it connects us.

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify.

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Composer Daniel Bernard Roumain sees pain, legacy, and enduring hope in this famous photograph of Ella Watson, one of many by Gordon Parks. Performance poet Lady Caress describes it as “the physical form of stolen expectations.” Together, they respond to the iconic photograph with a combination of music and poetry. In the ebb and flow of his composition, DBR hopes to capture the rhythm of Watson’s life—an elegy for someone he longs to have known.

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Art meets us where we are. For classical pianist and activist Lara Downes, Romare Bearden’s collage parallels her own life and family story: a puzzle full of questions and unfinished business. On her journey inside Bearden’s work, Downes travels backward to explore Black memory. In response to the collage, she brings together different musical sources, overlaying sounds that sit together comfortably at times and create tension at others, giving them the freedom to coexist.

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Nam Jun Paik used Ommah, Korean for “mother,” as the title of his final video sculpture. For composer and multi-instrumentalist Bora Yoon, this evokes the mother tongue and the motherland. Through the concept of cultural blood memory, Yoon explores whether we carry the sounds and memories of our people within us. She responds to Paik’s work by bringing together traditional Korean instruments and her own eclectic electronic music.