Monday, May 17, 2010

Music Collages

©St.Hilaire Nelson

Carnival of the Animals is musical suite of fourteen movements by the French Romantic composer Saint-Saëns. It was composed in 1886 while Saint-Saëns was vacationing in a small Austrian village. It was originally scored for a chamber group of flute/piccolo, clarinet, two pianos, glass harmonica, xylophone, two violins, viola, cello and double bass, but it is usually performed today with a full orchestra of strings.

Saint-Saëns, concerned that the piece was too frivolous and likely to harm his reputation as a serious composer, supressed performances of it and only allowed one movelent, Le cygne (The Swan) to be published in his lifetime. Only small private performances were given for close friends.

Saint-Saëns did include a provision which allowed the suite to be published after his death, and it has since become one of his most popular works. It is a favorite of music teachers and young children.

As the title suggests, the work follows a zoological program and progresses from the first movement, Intruduction et marche royale du lion, through portraits of elephants and donkeys to a finale reprising many of the earlier motifs. Several of the movements are of humorous intent.

I was sitting in orchestra rehearsal one night thinking about representing music through visual art when all of a sudden it came to me. Carnival of the Animals would make a great collage series! We had been rehearsing the music for months in preparation for our spring concert, but it took a while to hit me.

There are some wonderfully whimsical poems written by Bruce Adolphe which I will display with each piece of art from each movement of the suite. They will help to tie in the humorous music with the whimsical collage art.


  1. I enjoyed the musical story behind the collage work.

  2. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  3. Well Lorrie, I kind of felt it needed an explanation, what music had to do with animals and all. If you have ever heard the music, it's really funny, and very much gives you a feeling of the animal it portrays!

    Thanks for leaving a comment Arnold! :) it's nice to know who's actually reading out there.

  4. How wonderful to use Carnival of the Animals as a source of inspiration for collage. Maybe after you are finished with that, you will want to tackle Mussorgsky's PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION! Love your blog!


  5. Thanks Molly! and you never know where inspiration lies!


thank you for taking the time to read and comment! :)