Mozart’s “Grabmusik” (Funeral Music), is a short German religious cantata*.
It is told that the Archbishop didn’t believe that the 11 year old Mozart was capable of composing all those mature sounding pieces of music. He believed Mozart’s father was secretly writing for Mozart and trying to market his son as more of a prodigy than he actually was! So, the Archbishop put Mozart to the test, locking him in a room with pen and ink, and giving the young boy the task of writing a completely original cantata. The result was the delightful Grabmusik.
Story-wise the cantata is a dialogue between a recently departed Soul and an Angel, with a chorus of Angels at the end.
Although something called “Funeral Music” might strike a newb as probably sounding heartbreaking or harrowing (like Mozart’s Requiem), because Mozart was so young, this cantata is actually quite pretty, with lengthy melodies and lovely ascending, intertwining vocal lines — like an angel in flight!
When illustrating “Grabmusik”, I was inspired by the paintings of Gustav Moreau*.
Moreau often used the vertical height of a space, flowy fabrics, sexy bodies, backgrounds with huge depth, tiny distant mountain towns and various celestial bodies dotting the skies in his artwork. I wanted to reflect this in my image of Grabmusik. My idea was to have the angel guiding the soul to heaven.
I was inspired particularly by his beautiful “Hesiod and the Muse” painting, and the background of “Saint George” (and the Dragon! You can see the princess in the background praying, and even farther in the distance is the fantastic Lord of the Rings style city that Saint George was protecting.)
Before any of my photographic choices were made, however, I needed to make costumes! I wanted the angel to be clothed in the most beautiful, luscious fabrics available. I also wanted to make a fairly complex, stylistic 18th century corset, with an Art Deco Theme.
My grandmother balked at the thought of making a chemise out hundreds of dollars worth of White silk chiffon, but as you can see from the pictures, the beautiful floaty sleeves and train really sell the angelic qualities of the angel! My grandmother even helped me optimize the cutting area, which left us with only a small triangle and a thin strip of remnant, making it the most cost effective use of expensive fabric I’ve ever managed.
The Angel’s corset is an intricate use of Ivory and White dupioni silk, lace, Bridal Satin and beaded bridal appliques. While the corset isn’t seen in its full complexity in my final image, I do have some pictures of what it looks like.
This Corset is available for sale from my Etsy shop.
At the Joann’s Fabrics store they were having a clearance on bridal appliques when I was making these outfits, which is why I utilized them so thoroughly. Good looking appliques are both hard to find and expensive to purchase, so I generally use them very sparingly.
I drew a sketch of how I was going to lay out the fabrics before I started pleating and overlaying the silks and lace. This particular corset is boned with steel.
The Soul in the image (the guy with the angel) is wearing Cotton Gauze (which is just an awesome looking and feeling fabric) draped around his waist, and body oil.
The models, Natasha and Dillan, were great to work with. They are brother and sister, and so they got along really easily. Their mother helped by using the reflector board. The only issue was that the corset made Natasha a little light-headed, with the heat of the light and the tightly laced corset.
- A cantata, defined fairly literally, means something that is sung — which is pretty broad. But generally Cantatas are religious in nature, and alternate between Arias, Recitatives and small Ensembles.
- Gustave Moreau (1826 – 1898) was a French Symbolist painter, but unlike some symbolist painters, you can actually look at one of his paintings and tell what’s going on! He has absolutely no connection to Mozart, whatever.
- Visit my Etsy shop to view or contemplate buying this lovely Art Deco Corset.