In mid-2016 together with artist Marianna Maruyama, I started research on Dutch composer and artist’s Sedje Hémon (1923-2011) work and legacy. We were invited by the Sedje Hémon Foundation to investigate Hémon’s ideas (especially her theory of the integration of arts), as well as archive and publish her work. In addition, we were invited to make new work that would articulate or expose various and diverse modes of Hémon’s artistic legacy.
In the early 60’s Hémon begun developing a theory (or method, as she was calling it) of translating image to sound. This need for finding a systematised approach came out of her conviction that various art forms can be integrated and share the initial idea while fluctuating between various media. Her method consisted of placing a pitch grid onto the painting and extracting data which then was used to compose a musical score. In our post-digital mind-frames this seems as a striking resemblance to data-sonification practices that have emerged since the late 90’s. In this regard, it is even more striking that Hémon began applying her method (using big sheets of meticulously annotated grids) 40 years before the digital technologies ways of thinking became strongly embedded in music making.
In addition to more than 300 paintings and visual works, Sedje Hémon has composed a wide variety of pieces for orchestras, ensembles and solo performers. She was a very prolific composer and her systematic, formal approach to sound not only has led to some striking and unique compositions, but also puts her in direct line with her contemporaries such as Iannis Xenakis, György Ligeti or Karlheinz Stockhausen (in fact, she has attended workshops by both Xenakis and Ligeti as well as Earl Brown and various other composers at the Gaudeamus Foundation in the late 60’s).
As a composer working closely with the Sedje Hémon Foundation, it is one of my main areas of interest to use the integration method in making new sonic work that would explore the various modes of translation and communication between various media and sonic forms.
For further information about Sedje Hémon, please visit the Sedje Hémon website.