Beyond the Notes: Introduction

I believe music has the potential to have a profound effect on the way that we see and understand visual art, and vice versa, in the same way that a score enhances the experience of a film. I aim to create music that acts as a pathway for listeners into a richer and more meaningful relationship with works of visual art. Similarly, I hope the artwork may act as a pathway for viewers into my music.

Beyond the Notes: Music Inspired by Art is a program of music I composed during the years 2009-2011 in response to specific works of art (e.g. The Course of Empire); individual artists' philosophies and identities (e.g. Georgia O'Keeffe and Michelangelo); and/or formal concepts in art that I've found translatable to music (e.g. Triptych).

The complete program was brought to life on November 2, 2011 by outstanding young performers studying at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, MA. This multimedia concert combined live performances with video and slide projections.

Works of music from the Beyond the Notes: Music Inspired by Art program have also been presented individually at art museums. String quartet The Course of Empire was performed in July 2011 by members of A Far Cry at the Peabody Essex Museum outside of Boston in conjunction with the touring exhibit Painting the American Vision. Watercolors was performed by New York City's The Chelsea Quintet in November 2012 at the grand public opening of the expanded Parrish Art Museum on the East End of Long Island, NY.

Explore this website to hear samples of these works of music and the artworks that inspired them. To learn about the other music I've composed, visit

--Nell Shaw Cohen