Project 52

Assignment 20 - CD Cover for Samuel Barber's Op. 11

This week's assignment was to create the CD Cover (and back cover) for a classical string quartet's recording of Samuel Barber's Op. 11.  The guidelines were to create an image for the cover/back that will do two things: show something regarding a string quartet and say a little something about the music.  However, we didn't have to include a quartet, or even a musical instrument. 

Personally, I wanted to include at least one person in the image with a relevant instrument for a string quartet - violin, viola or cello.  I reached out to two musicians I had photographed for the "Air" assignment back in week 8.  One of them gave me a referral for someone who played the violin, but was never able to make contact with her.  I posted a request on Facebook and reached out to a couple other people I thought might know musicians, but to no avail.  My last minute attempt at finding a musician was reaching out to the Rockland Conservatory.  I hadn't heard back from them a couple of days prior to the assignment being due, so I gave up on having a portrait.

Finally, I went to a local music store and rented a violin for the weekend.  This gave me a chance to play around with a still life in my new studio (we just built a studio in our house - woo hoo!), where I've only taken portraits to date.  I did a bit of research on the Op. 11 and on Samuel Barber to see what inspiration I could take from it.  Barber wrote the quartet in 1936, when he was in his twenties.  The Adagio for Strings, which is the second movement in the Op. 11, has been described as "a blend of sorrow, beauty, and hope" and "it has been repeatedly called upon to commemorate the most devastating tragedies as the only music worthy of expressing the inexpressible, both the anguish and the hope..."* 

Given that description, I knew I wanted something a bit darker and moody.  I used a desktop as a base for some of the images and a black background.  I started playing around with some scenes with just a portion of the violin in the image, as the dimensions of a violin aren't really proportioned correctly for the square image needed for a CD cover.  I added an element at a time to the image, first adding some blank sheet music and then the first page of the Adagio.  I borrowed a fountain pen set from my in-laws and added a pen and some ink, followed by the box from the set...I wanted to give the feel as though Barber was sitting there writing music.  My final touch was the bow from the violin.  I ended up blending two images together, so the reflection on the right side of the violin didn't show the lines of the sheet music and only reflected white.

Once that image was where I wanted it, I began to play with some close ups of the violin and different lighting schemes to get different effects.  I narrowed down the images to three and put them side by side with the original scene to see what would make a complementary back cover.  I settled on an image which showed the base of the neck and the curves of the violin.  I combined the two images in Photoshop.  During the review of the images, my mentor suggested switching the order in which I placed the images (i.e., swapping the front and back images from the CD cover).  The updated image is below:

The back cover is on the left, the front cover is on the right

The back cover is on the left, the front cover is on the right

As some consolation for not getting a portrait, I've recently been contacted by the Rockland Conservatory, so I'm hoping to get to photograph some of their musicians after all...we're working on dates for the New Year.  Next week's assignment is to shoot a triptych - three images which are related in some way, subject matter, color, etc. - that are displayed together.  I'm going to work with a local flute player who I had contacted a few months back.  I may also play around with a few still life images to see what I like best.  Come back next week to see where I landed!

I'd like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.  I hope you all have a safe, healthy and happy holiday!

* quoted from