Student transforms notes of classical songs into brushstrokes

Video posted April 23, 2012 in News by Travis Patterson



Penn State Junior Brenna McPheron, 21, has found an uncommon way to combine her musical and artistic interests. 

McPheron has a strong background in classical piano having played since she was five years old.  This past summer she studied abroad in Todi, Italy; where she took a drawing and painting course in the Italian countryside.  The host family she lived with did not have a piano for her to play so she searched for an outlet for her artistic abilities, and found one in the form of painting. 

While listening to classical music through her iPod, she started painting and realized the similarities as only an artist could discover.  McPheron said she began to think of the notes of a stanza as brushstrokes in a painting, which began to inspire her in this unique form of collaboration.  She visualizes the sounds of musical notes as different colors and lengths of brushstrokes. 

Water LiliesUpon returning to the states, McPheron immediately sat down at her piano to play classical pieces with her sketchbook propped up next to her.  Once she began to play on an actual piano, she started to relate the stretching of her fingers across the keys to the length of a brush stroke and the pace of the song to the intensity of the color and firmness of each line.  One of her favorite works is an interpretation of a classical piano piece by Antonio Vivaldi as a water lily painting.  McPheron interpreted the light classical piece as soft, lighter colors that blend into each other with a watery background. 

McPheron's dream is to one day display her artwork inspired by classical piano music in a museum while playing the piano in the background to give visitors a glimpse into what she hears and then translates into a painting. 

After graduation, she wants to expand her talents to incorporate all five senses.  McPheron said she hopes to turn the taste of wine and other Italian drinks into some form of sculpture.  She wonders if a sculpture of a crashing wave would be a good representation of the taste of some potent Chianti wine.


When Brenna was without a piano in Italy

While Brenna McPheron was abroad in Italy this past summer, the host family she lived with did not have a piano for her to play her classical music so she had to find a 21st century solution to transform music into art; her iPod.  During her painting and drawing course she listened to several different varieties of classical music and painted or drew what came to mind.  Listening to Antonio Vivaldi's classical piece 'The Four Seasons' McPheron painted pieces such as Water Lilies, Water Drops, Purple Flower and Orange Vase.  For her darker side, she listened to Johann Sebastian Bach's 'Toccata and Fugue in D minor.'  Her 'darker' pieces were mostly done in charcoal and watercolors such as Twisting Girl, Thorns, Creeping Eye and Crying Girl.