by Glenn John Arnowitz
My interest in drawing and visual expression began in the 1960s with my first John Gnagy art kit and a subscription to MAD Magazine. I’m also a musician and have been performing ever since seeing The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.
As a composer I have a rich catalog of songs, commercial, chamber and orchestral music. I’ve always loved the way black notes danced over the white space on a music score. It’s so graphic. Hieroglyphic. As a young composer I was attracted to the avant-garde scores of Stockhausen, Penderecki and Berio who filled their scores with unorthodox notation techniques using bold swashes, arrows, boxes and circles. Eighth notes on acid. To some they looked like a Rorschach test gone bad. But to me they were works of art and appealed to my visual and musical sensibilities.
I eventually began to develop my own musical language. Parked next to my Steinway was a drawing table where I—armed with a T-Square, triangle, compass, markers, pencils and scissors—drew, then cut and pasted my way through uninhibited musical territory. Finding an approach that visually expressed the sound colors and textures that I heard in my head was a challenge.
For years I experimented with a variety of notation techniques. Some worked. Some didn’t. It wasn’t until I composed my orchestral piece, “Falling From Grace”, that I found the perfect balance of form and function. Although it’s not as sexy or visually striking as some of my earlier scores, it soars, crashes, sings and takes the listener on a ride. My ride. And when someone wants to know something about me, I play them this piece.