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April 11, 2013

Poetry, art and music: T. S. Eliot's "Four Quartets" inspires collaboration and tour

T. S. Eliot's "Four Quartets" inspires collaboration, tour

The lyrical nature of T.S. Eliot’s words continue to resonate well into the 21st century, and, in the case of one Gloucester artist, inspire.

Bruce Herman is not alone in his attraction to the work of the 20th century poet. Herman attended a dinner party with friends in New York City four years ago when the conversation encompassed a shared fascination and affinity for Eliot’s masterpiece, “Four Quartets,” written in 1943 during World War II.

That animated discussion inspired the massive musical and artistic collaboration “QU4RTETS,” so named in reference to Eliot’s provocative work, which is actually a suite of four poems. Besides Herman, the artistic friends included internationally acclaimed artist Makoto Fujimura, Yale musician Christopher Theofanidis, and Duke professor, theologian and pianist Jeremy Begbie.

The depth of Eliot’s words, which some of the friends had committed to memory, propelled the artists to paint canvasses and create music in this collaboration now on tour. It comes to Gordon College in Wenham this Saturday after stops at Baylor University, Duke University, Carnegie Hall and Yale University, and before traveling internationally.

“This is a rare opportunity to work with gifted artists who are also friends in response to one of the 20th century’s greatest poems,” said Herman, an art professor who serves as gallery director and Lothlórien Distinguished Chair in Fine Arts at Gordon College in Wenham.

The April 13 event starts with a public reception at 4 p.m. followed by a panel discussion at 5 p.m. during which portions of an original score for piano and string quartet, titled “At the Still Point,” will be played.

“In our collaboration, we are addressing an old painterly tradition: the four seasons and four stages of life, implicit in Eliot’s poem,” Herman said. “I’ve tried to interact directly with Eliot’s use of the four elements — earth, air, fire and water — to create a set of meditations on death and resurrection while pointing toward a mysterious fifth element (quintessence).”

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