In my conversation with Cleveland Orchestra principal flutist Joshua Smith we talked about the influence of classical rhetoric on the work of baroque composers. You can hear that in his most recent CD, J.S. Bach Flute sonatas, which he recorded with harpsichordist Jory Vinikour.


We were talking about music and language—specifically about his upcoming recital of Telemann’s flute fantasies with Laura Perrotta reciting William Shakespeare—but I had to ask about another art form. The cover art for the Bach disc is a photo of Smith standing in front of some very familiar graffiti. It turns out to be an otherwise grey concrete wall on the west bank of the flats, visible from the Columbus Road lift bridge.

Why graffiti?

“I love that question,” Smith says. “I am so tired of the idea that baroque music has to be presented in those arch traditional ways—pictures of stained glass windows, or of a flute on an oriental rug. I wanted to look for something fresh.”

He came to the idea of graffiti as a visual representation because like baroque sonatas, it has a well defined form and its own vocabulary of quick gestures that live in the moment of their creation. Not only on the cover of the disc, but in a related promotional video called Bach in the Moment several Cleveland graff artists spend time in the company of Smith’s incredibly fine playing. The video’s creator, Graham Veysey, uses photos by Jay Szabo that emphasize the walls’ palimpsest of color and texture, both in the context of the urban river, and so far up close that color and texture is all they become.

Check it out: