As music director of Weekend Edition Sunday, NPR's Ned Wharton supervises music continuity for the show, keeps tabs on what's new and noteworthy in the music world and produces many of the artist features heard on the program.
For this edition of Director's Cuts, he looks at a pair of CDs designed to be appreciated with visual components.
(Editor's note: The illustrated novel Blankets contains graphic scenes regarding adolescence, and may not be suitable for children.)
Gerhard Richter's Abstract Pictures, 1999 (858-1/8) are in the permanent collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the partial and promised gifts of anonymous donors in honor of the artist. Paintings © 1999 Gerhard Richter.
Producer David Breskin commissioned composer-guitarist Bill Frisell to write music based on RICHTER 858, a series of abstract paintings by German artist Gerhard Richter. Originally a CD insert for an art book, the compositions for strings are now available as a super audio CD with a multimedia slideshow of Richter's paintings.
Detail from 858-5, Abstract Picture, 1999
Frisell says he saw himself in the role of the squeegee, smearing the paint around.
Detail from 858-8, Abstract Picture, 1999
Breskin essentially gave Frisell free reign to develop the music — with the caveat that "the music should not be 'pretty' in the conventional or sentimental way."
John Askew's collective called Tracker created the perfect sonic landscape to accompany Craig Thompson's award-winning illustrated novel. A poignant and thoughtful coming of age story, Blankets is full of vivid imagery from a blustery Wisconsin winter. Tracker's "soundtrack" lifts the characters off the printed page and into another dimension.
As children, Thompson and his brother were frightened of the furnace, which remained an ominous presence in his memory.
The themes of Blankets are quiet and simple: growing up in the isolated country, self-acceptance and spiritual struggle.