Julie Comnick’s 2012 work titled “Prelude.” [Courtesy Julie Comnick]

While learning to play an instrument fosters the arts, it also teaches children valuable lessons about hard work and the importance of practice. But children everywhere are losing access to basic music classes in school. If music education isn’t a priority at home, and if parents can’t afford private lessons, what will become the source for music education?

The world around us is changing. We live in a time where music and media are instantly accessible. With a click of a button you can have an entire album at your disposal. Technology has forever changed the way music is transmitted, understood and received.

Visual artist Julie Comnick has created a hauntingly beautiful exhibition entitled “An Arrangement for a Silent Orchestra,” which discusses the relationship between technology and art, and the loss of cultural traditions in the modern world. I recently spoke with her about the inspiration and meaning behind her work. “The questions this project raises about the relationship between increasing technology and its impact on cultural heritage pertain across art disciplines, including music: What is the result of reduced funding for the arts in education? In a nanosecond culture, what becomes of practice?”

The violin is the centerpiece of Comnick’s exhibition, and she has a deep connection with the instrument. Comnick grew up playing the violin, but slowly began to leave it behind in high school, and permanently in college when music classes were unavailable.

After collecting irreparable violins from around the nation, Comnick set them aflame. While you may be thinking her approach is harsh, she believes burning was the best method to get her message across. “A pile of violins is to an orchestra as a pile of kindling is to a fire; burning evokes the history of the practice of symbolic burning, and encourages the viewer to contemplate its intention.” Historically the burning of books, flags or draft cards made a statement and carried a message beyond the act itself. This is no different for Comnick’s project.

But music isn’t to be lamented. There is always a hope that it will hold value and evolve in new ways. As an adult, she returned to the violin and the exhibition features her own performance.

This exhibition raises questions about our present and instills hope for a brighter future.

“An Arrangement for a Silent Orchestra” features large scale paintings that show the progress of the fire as it destroyed the violins as well as a video component. On display at Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum through March 22, this thought- provoking display should not be missed. See it for yourself and consider the role of art and technology in your own life.

 • Katie Selph, a University of Arizona graduate, is freelance writer, and intern with Mesa Arts Center and the Phoenix Chorale.

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