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Dan Flanagan — “The Bow and the Brush” (MSR Classics, 2023)


In his 2023 release, “The Bow and the Brush,” violinist Dan Flanagan intricately merges classical music and visual art. The album explores the interplay between auditory and visual elements, showcasing Flanagan’s versatility in interpreting diverse compositions and pushing artistic boundaries. Standout pieces like “Shadow Breaking” and “And Miles to Go” utilize unique bow techniques and sound effects, while Flanagan’s original works, “Monterey Sentinels” and “An Animated Street in Autumn,” offer vivid landscapes and bustling streets. The album challenges listeners with melodic motifs and propels artistic innovation by uniting the perspectives of contemporary composers, painters, and sculptors. Flanagan’s work represents a captivating intersection of art forms, encouraging ongoing exploration and collaboration in contemporary music.

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ISSN: 2792-8349

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International Journal of Music

As a musician deeply immersed in the world of classical music, I am thrilled to share insights into my latest album, “The Bow and the Brush,” released in the spring of 2023. This project is a culmination of my experiences and impressions derived from various visual art productions, specifically paintings and sculptures created by esteemed artists. In this article, I will delve into the intricacies of the compositions, shedding light on the profound interplay between auditory and visual elements that defines this album.

The diverse range of compositions presented in this album required a nuanced understanding of violin technique, bow strokes, and sound effects. Each piece demanded a unique approach, showcasing not only my skills as a performer but also my ability to interpret contemporary pieces with depth and authenticity. Having established myself as a concertmaster and member of prominent U.S. orchestras, I sought to push the boundaries of my artistry, not only as an interpreter but also as a composer.

Two compositions, “Shadow Breaking” by Nathaniel Stookey and “And Miles to Go” by Jessica Mays, stand out as highly impactful pieces within the album. “Shadow Breaking” exudes an ethereal and enchanting character, employing intriguing descriptive sound effects achieved through various bow techniques. Conversely, “And Miles to Go” delves into a darker ambiance, skillfully utilizing sound effects and bow strokes to immerse the listener in a profound sense of confusion.

My own compositions, “Monterey Sentinels” and “An Animated Street in Autumn,” showcase alluring melodies, seamless transitions, and detailed descriptions. The former carries an ethereal tone, introducing vocal effects, while the latter simulates the bustling atmosphere of crowded streets through extensive use of double stops. Descriptive elements are inherent throughout the album but reach a pinnacle in Evan Price’s “Blue Swan,” James Stephenson’s “Guillaumin,” Peter Josheff’s “Same Old Sadness,” and Trevor Weston’s “Notre Dame au milieu de l’eau et du ciel.” In these pieces, melodic motifs serve as the linchpin, challenging the listener’s capacity for abstraction and visualization.

“Cadenza II” by José González Granero and “Raven’s Dance” by Linda Marcel, although not contiguous on the album, effectively complement each other, leaving a compelling overall impression. The former unfolds with a dramatic character reminiscent of Prokofiev and the Russian compositional school, featuring melodious octave passages and expressive flying staccato. In contrast, the latter piece begins with a chromatic ascent, showcasing textures and sound effects through bow strokes, a testament to my technical prowess as a violinist.

The final four pieces, while integral to the album’s complexity, have left a somewhat less enduring impact on me. “The Collection” by Shinji Eshima draws inspiration from Bach’s music, “Into the Light” by Cindy Cox evokes a distant reminiscence, “Splits (Le grand écart)” by Edmund Campion intensifies through harmonic intensity, and “The Only Way Through Is Slow” by Libby Larsen focuses melodically on the note E with slight variations.


In conclusion, “The Bow and the Brush” represents a bridge of artistic interdisciplinarity, seamlessly uniting the auditory and visual realms. This album offers listeners a distinctive experience, weaving together the perspectives of contemporary composers, painters, and sculptors. My interpretation and perspective as a violinist echo the viewpoints of these artists, collectively propelling musical and artistic innovation forward. As we traverse this intersection of art forms, I am excited about the potential for continued exploration and collaboration in the ever-evolving landscape of contemporary music.

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