Visual Art and the Music of Kenneth Frazelle


Visual art, a lifelong passion of Kenneth Frazelle, has inspired many of his musical works. He and his brother and sister all painted as teenagers, and Frazelle nurtured his interest in painting during high school years at the North Carolina School of the Arts. Today he is an avid watercolorist as well as a collector of both Modern and Contemporary prints and the woodblock prints of nineteenth-century Japanese artist Hiroshige.

Frazelle’s first musical/visual explorations resulted in piano pieces based on the Abstract Expressionist painters Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock. He has written compositions relating to the painter Brice Marden  (Inventions to Marden), the ancient Mimbres pottery of the American Southwest (Sonata for Oboe and Piano), the quilts of Gee’s Bend, Alabama (Gee’s Bend Pieces), and the ceramics of master potter Karen Karnes (Winter Turns). The central elegiac movement of Frazelle's Piano Trio was a reaction to the Holocaust collage “Re’eh: Unto Dust” of artist Irwin Kremen. Frazelle combined his own watercolors with piano pieces in the Book of Blue Flowers.

In the summer of 2010, Frazelle traveled to Hale County, Alabama, to explore the sites documented by photographers Walker Evans and William Christenberry. This road trip resulted in Songs in the Rear View Mirror, to date the composer’s most autobiographical composition. The work has sometimes been performed along with projections of Christenberry’s photographs.

The composer's Southwest composition, Songs of Clay and Stone, premiering in 2017, features texts about the great Pueblo potters Nampeyo and Maria Martinez, as well as landscape depictions of Chaco Canyon and Rainbow Bridge. Current projects include a song cycle with voice and chamber orchestra, staging the woodblock prints of Hiroshige. Frazelle is also exploring photographer Sally Mann's images of the Great Dismal Swamp.  

To view the composer's own watercolors, click here and here.