How music fell in love with M. C. Escher

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M. C. Escher was one of the greatest artistic geniuses in the twentieth century, and among all the geniuses of the last centuries he’s perhaps the one whose works have a bigger reputation than his own name. Its perspective paradoxes, his shape tricks, his conceptual intuitions, the whole work of the Dutch artist left an enormous sign on the modern imaginary, in all areas where the visual brilliance can play a role: music, cinema, commercials, cartoons, comics, every mass product of modern culture has in fact drawn from its ideas.

Pink Floyd – On The Run – The Live Biography Volume Three (1987)

Many of Escher’s appearances in the music world, however, have been lost in history and time, remembered only by a few. But the moments where music wanted to marry his images are many. Sometimes failing in the attempt and revealing in some ways that love was not returned, as it happened to The Rolling Stones when they got a refusal from Escher himself, after they asked to draw Let It Bleed’s cover (the one that later became famous for the multilayer cake on vinyl). Others went on the safe side and chose to include his most famous paintings directly in the covers of their LPs, as did Pink Floyd with his painting Relativity in The Live Biography Volume Three (above) or Scaffold with Ascending and Descending in L The P (below).

Scaffold – L The P (1969)

Others took a step further and reinterpreted Escher’s insights into their artwork. Ian Hunter took the aesthetics of Escher’s portrait in Bond of Union and filled it with colours and objects of modernity, in his debut album cover in 1975. You see it below: for some extent it may seem desecrating as those brats who paint the cigarette in Mona Lisa’s mouth. But Escher is different. Escher is the son and the father of modernity, and the irreverence of the modern era can fit to him. Respectfully.

Ian Hunter – Ian Hunter (1975)

There are many other cases in the history of vinyl covers, like The Sun and the Moon or Mott the Hoople. And then we have videos, of course, which can return Escher’s impossible paradoxes in the most spectacular way. In 2000 Incubus began their Drive video with the famous Drawing Hands, giving life and movement to the fascinating idea of autogeneration. The year before Red Hot Chili Peppers did something similar with Otherside video (in the end of this article), abstract and surrealist, with a couple of scenes set in a stylized version of the Relativity‘s room. Getting closer to present we have Prefuse 73’s video Still Pretending, in 2015, but the inspiration probably came from New York Chinatown. No doubts about Wait for A Minute, Tyga and Justin Bieber’s 2013 video with those recognizable stairs.

All this is just talking about music. There is also cinema, advertisement and all other aesthetic products of the modern era (you can find a partial list on Wikipedia). They call it Eschermania and the reason is his orientation towards the parallel realities, the paradoxical visions, the impossible physics, which responds to the modern need to go beyond the world we see. It’s ante-litteram sci-fi, or the most expendable art in the world of virtual reality. Some art produced in last century had an impressive longevity and it’s nice to see it reappearing at regular intervals in contemporary productions.

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