The shape of music

How to hint at one art in terms of another? The question is a recurring theme in The Home Forum, and we are delighted to offer a remarkable response to it on this page. Here are two photos of drawings in colored pencil and graphite by John De Cesare (1890-1972) that are having their first public showing at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Design, in New York.

The title of the exhibition, ''Visual Space in Music,'' refers to the architectural and sculptural forms derived by the artist from musical notation. The bass and treble clefs are fairly obvious at the top of the large picture. Below them are angular shapes symbolizing notes of various pitch and duration in lines like staffs on a musical score.

At the bottom of the page is a detail from a chart of 11 columns providing a vocabulary of ''musical'' shapes to permit the ''reading'' of De Cesare's musical drawings. From left to right the columns list: (1) bass notes with stems down, (2) rest symbols, (3) bass notes with stems up, (4) rest symbols, (5) bass chords of two tones, (6) tenor voice, (7) treble chords with two tones, (8) alto voice, (9) treble notes with stems up, (10) soprano voice, (11) treble notes with stems down.

De Cesare used his symbols in many ways, sometimes representing familiar things, sometimes putting together elaborate abstractions. You ought to see (hear?) his ''Star-Spangled Banner.''

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