Music for Picasso’s works

For the second consecutive year, and as final year project, the students of composition of the Conservatori del Liceu have composed a musical piece based on works of the museum collection.

In this project, the Conservatori del Liceu and the Museu Picasso have worked on exploring the new interpretations that other artistic languages and new generations of creators can contribute to the works of our collection.


As Picasso said, “A painting lives its life like a human being, it undergoes the changes that the everyday life imposes on us. This is very natural given that a painting only lives for those that look at it.” Therefore, the “musical visions” created by young composers enrich our collection and give it life.

During the project, the students visited the museum, and afterwards carried out working sessions and debate in the Conservatory, based on which the works that they would compose about were chosen. Of these new musical pieces, two per work were selected.

These compositions were premiered in the museum itself in two formats, the first with a musical visit in which the piece was performed in front of the work that inspired it and then immediately afterwards with a final concert in the hall. The concert was introduced by Josep Perelló, professor from the University of Barcelona and leader of the research group OpenSystems.

The works which the composers were inspired by, were the following:

Portrait of Carles Casagemas


Pablo Picasso. Carles Casagemas. Barcelona, 1899-1900. Oil on canvas. 55 x 45 cm. Gift of  Pablo Picasso, 1970. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Photograph: Estudi Gasull. MPB 110.022

This work, one of the portraits that Picasso did of his friend from youth, was the inspiration for the pieces composed by Daniel López and Guillem Ponsí, respectively and performed by Èric Masip on the violin, Alicia Domínguez and on the viola i Marc Martí on the cello.

According to Dani López “In the portrait you can perceive a personality that is obsessive, unpredictable and maybe diabolical. My goal throughout the process of composition was to represent and include all the characteristics of this personality in the string trio.  The piece only contains two simple motifs, the function of which constantly changes, always accompanied by an insistence of rapidly repeated notes. A set of unpredictable accents become the protagonists as the work progresses, which end up mixing all the above-mentioned elements in a culminating point.  From here on a disintegration of the texture achieved begins, so as to finish with an open ending.”

On the other hand, for Guillem Ponsí the Portrait of Carles Casagemas “makes you think that the protagonist is a complex and problematic person.  The little touch of white of the shirt on the large black background suggests that his problems started by being something very small, and that these grew until swallowing up the protagonist, just as the black of the background does.  In this work, I wanted to reflect this emotional process that the protagonist suffers, that is to say, how it begins as an insignificant thing and without importance and then it becomes bigger and bigger until it ends up as nothing at all.”

Lola, the artist’s sister, in the studio in Riera de Sant Joan


Pablo Picasso. Lola, the artist’s sister, in the studio in Riera de Sant Joan. Barcelona, 1900. Oil on canvas. 55.5 x 45.5 cm. Gift of Pablo Picasso, 1970. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Photograph: Estudi Gasull. MPB 110.054

The composers Daniel Muñoz Osorio and Míriam Spinelli were inspired by this portrait of Dolores Ruiz Picasso, the artist’s sister. The pieces were performed by Clara Giner and Héctor Rodríguez on the flute.

The composition by Míriam Spinelli was inspired “by this piece, using the symbolism in which the windows represent the possibility of getting rid of the discomfort, contrasting with the darkness of the room, as a metaphor for her mood, versus the exterior clarity, as a representation of light and of life. Within this framework, Lola, the artist’s sister, with her white dress, could function as an anchor of calm, serenity and inner peace for Picasso, as a representation of the meaning of the outside world in the heart of the painter.”

Something very different was the composition of Daniel Muñoz which poses the question of “What is the mystery behind this faceless face? What enigma is there in this silhouette without lines? What secret is hidden behind this figure without an identity?  We can’t know who he or she is. We can barely recognize any of the features that could give us important clues, or hardly any characteristics that could help us. We can imagine innumerable faces, that’s for sure.  Faces that could belong to anybody. Anyone who could have unimaginable stories behind them, one of which has led her to stand in front of this window, in a studio of the old  Riera de Sant Joan. But what is the mystery, therefore, behind this faceless face? None. Just that the sun is dropping behind her. Only that the light doesn’t illuminate her features. Just that it is Lola, the artist’s sister.”

The offering

MPB 112.761musicant_picasso_12

Pablo Picasso. The offering. París, 1908. Gouache on cardboard with white primer. 30.6 x 30.6 cm. Gift of  Lord Amulree, 1985. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Photograph: Estudi Gasull. MPB 112.761

This work of Picasso is closely related to Les demoiselles d’Avignon. Nicolás Hernández on the flute, Emili Flores on the oboe and Cristian Molina on the clarinet gave the sound to the compositions created by Irene Gregori and Òscar Vilaprinyó respectively.

According to what Irene Gregori explains “In this brief piece, I have taken advantage of the three instruments to represent the three characters that we can see in the painting. Each of these characters reflects very well their personalities and I have tried in this way to musically transmit this. In the beginning of the piece the difference between the three of them is very notable, and as this little journey progresses they begin to take on touches of one from the other until reaching a fast melodic movement in which they become mixed together, but in the end the strong personality of each of them always overcomes.”

The musical piece by Òscar Vilaprinyó tells us a short story in which “each character is represented by an instrument: the clarinet is the girl; the flute becomes the young boy, and the oboe, the gentleman.  In this way, the three figures represented by Picasso come to life in a brief musical tragedy: the girl seduces the two masculine characters that pursue each other and fight until the death of the youngest one in a melancholic end.”

The studio of La Californie


Pablo Picasso. The studio of La Californie. Cannes, April 29th 1956. Oil on canvas. 195 x 260 cm. Private collection

This work was performed by Marta Crous and Lluís Vila on the guitar. The two composers selected, Jordi Estany and Eli Ben Avi, did work based on sonic dissonance so as to highlight the abstract, almost “visually dissonant” aspects from the painting.

According to the composer Eli Ben Avi, “At first sight you can see that Picasso divides the painting in three parts. The right-hand part of the painting is an open space with a large amount of light: this ambience is interpreted with sounds of strings in the air with a floating rhythm, and with natural harmonies which for me express the light of the window. The central part is a much darker setting, mysterious and with the shadow of a person: this suggested to me a more emotional music, with chords and melodies, and with extremes with basses and trebles that express the colours black and white. The left-hand part is the more complex of the painting, and the music responds with rhythmic density and more marked dissonances. The minor ninth chord with syncopations that briefly appears at the end of the first part describes the proximity between the simple and the complex in the work of Picasso, the same as the sudden appearance of a calm tune, which aims to represent the feeling that the painting provoked in me, of something unexpected.”

For Jordi Estany, “This decomposition and abstraction of the object always keeping a submerged symmetry within the disorder, provided me with the possibility of moving in a field that until now had been unknown to me, the cubist language. The shades used by Picasso, almost a range of black and White as just about the only colour range, for me symbolize these apparently opposed poles that in music are dissonance and consonance. In the melodic-harmonic contents of the piece, I have tried to break up and reconstruct again all the material that has inspired me from La Californie. The different spaces of the work, clearly defined in the painting, were the guidelines to follow for the formal dissection. Within each of the sections I have tried to make the rhythmic movement to reproduce the density proposed by the author.”

Finally the pieces were also interpreted in the hall of the museum in a concert open to the public and with a presentation by Josep Perelló.



The interpreters preparing for the concert, introduction and presentation of the pieces in front of the public in the lecture hall

“A painting lives its life like a human being, it undergoes the changes that the everyday life imposes on us.  This is very natural given that a painting only lives for those that look at it.”

Pablo Picasso. Christian Zervos, “Conversations avec Picasso”, Cahiers d’art Paris 7/10 (1935), p. 173-174

Museum’s newsroom

Related links
Photo album

No Comments Yet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Captcha: *