Krag Peak Cirque (VI.30.2009). Eagle Cap Wilderness . . .
On the road in the American Northwest.
ON THE DYNAMIC BALANCE
OF PRIMARY CONTRASTS
What the rhythmic back and forth of sound and silence is to music and
poetry, so the movement of bright light and deep shadow—white and
black—is to the visual image. Both are primary complementarities.
In other words, if the right balance between the poles of sound and
silence, and the poles of light and darkness is not found at this fundamental
level, the less basic planes of the composition will necessarily
rest, like a house with its walls out of plumb, on shaky ground.
In music and poetry, it seems to me that the back and forth of sound
and silence is directly related to the breath, and hence by implication
to things spiritual; In the visual arts, the contrast of white and black
is more directly related to the realms of being and non-being, or the
explicitly manifest world of things, people and other physical objects,
and the more subtle realm of the about-to-become or disappear of non-
As a general rule, I would say that the more silence, or the more darkness,
a composition can hold and yet still maintain a kind of sustained
tension in the balance between its complementary pole of sound or
light or brightness, the more the composition tends to fill the space
with an air of mystery. This, however, is difficult to achieve, and most
likely not to be achieved in any self-conscious way. One can, however,
simply be aware of its great inherent importance, and when lucky, and
when opportunity presents itself, get out of the way and
let it happen.
[ from page 222 of THE LITTLE CLAVIER [ PDF 110 MB]