As part of a course on music composition, Harvard students created original works inspired by objects in the Harvard Art Museums collections. Those compositions were recently brought to life by cellist Neil Heyde of London’s Royal Academy of Music at a concert held in the Calderwood Courtyard.

Courtesy of Harvard Art Museums

Arts & Culture

A fountain of music

2 min read

Student compositions, inspired by Art Museums’ works, debut in courtyard concert

It was a class assignment with a transcendent twist.

Seven Harvard undergraduates in Richard Beaudoin’s course on music composition took on the challenge last fall of composing short works inspired by art from the collections of the recently reopened Harvard Art Museums. Last month, those compositions were performed publicly for the first time at a concert titled “Sounding Art,” held in the museums’ Calderwood Courtyard.

Cellist Neil Heyde of London���s Royal Academy of Music performed the pieces by students Eric Corcoran, Sumire Hirotsuru, Auburn Lee, Cynthia Meng, Samuel Pottash, Brandon Snyder, and Fraser Weist. Before Heyde played the pieces, each student composer spoke briefly about how his or her piece related to the museums’ collections.

Cellist Neil Heyde of London’s Royal Academy of Music performed pieces by students at Harvard Art Museums’ Calderwood Courtyard. Courtesy of Harvard Art Museums

Their compositions ranged in style from classical to jazz to atonal. Heyde bookended the student works with two different performances of Morton Feldman’s 1950 “Projection 1,” an iconic American composition notated on graph paper that changes each time it is played.

As the afternoon program concluded, Beaudoin, a preceptor in the Department of Music, encouraged the audience to visit the University Study Gallery on Level 3, where they could view the works that inspired the student compositions, including Glenn Ligon’s 2004 print “Self-Portrait at Eleven Years Old” and Ignace-Henri-Jean-Théodore Fantin-Latour’s 1894 drawing “Music and Poetry.”

The event was representative of “everything we do as a teaching museum,” said Laura Muir, the research curator for academic and public programs. “The concert was rooted in our collections and engaged students, faculty, and the public in an interactive moment tied to teaching, learning, and close looking.”