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Richter 858 – Frisell, Richter – Part 1

Richter 858 is an extraordinary collaboration between the painter Gerhard Richter and musician/jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, first released on CD as part of the limited edtion book RICHTER 858, published by The Shifting Foundation/SFMOMA (San Francisco 2002), ISBN 0-9718610-0-5

In 2002 Bill Frisell was commissioned by producer/poet David Breskin to create the music for an elaborate art book project on the great German painter Gerhard Richter. The book, RICHTER 858, was published in connection with a comprehensive US retrospective of Richter’s work, although it focused entirely on a recent series of eight small abstract paintings numbered 858 1–8. There were poems, essays, superb reproductions of the works, and Frisell’s music on an inserted CD — one piece for each painting.

Here is the music paired each with its accompanying painting. Notes are from Richter 858: Outline re: Structure, Aesthetics, Questions, Thoughts by producer David Breskin.
The opening of the first track, 858-1, is very aggressive. Stick with it. The rewards are great.


Abstract Picture, 1999
Oil on aluminum, 50×72 cm

There should be eight distinct pieces of music, each having a 1:1 relationship to the painting which serves as its “trigger”. Repeated motifs and/ or structures shared by a number of pieces are perfectly acceptable, indeed natural, as there are such motifs and structures shared by certain of the paintings.

Abstract Picture, 1999
Oil on aluminum, 50×72 cm

The main eight pieces may be roughly the same length as each other, but also are perfectly free to be very different lengths. Your reaction to the paintings will be wholly subjective and personal. One painting may simply not “ask you” for as much exploration and development as another.

Abstract Picture, 1999
Oil on aluminum, 50×72 cm

This is a natural tendency and should not be fought. While it is true that the first seven paintings are all exactly the same size and created with similar means, duration in music is not necessarily analogous to scale in the visual arts.

Abstract Picture, 1999
Oil on aluminum, 50×72 cm

Likewise, in music, one would never confuse duration with significance any more than one would dare to value a huge Julian Schnable painting over a tiny Vermeer simply because of size. Given you full freedoms in this dimension, it may still be your wish to explore the idea of uniformity between paintings.


  1. Thank you for posting this. I didn’t know about this adventure.

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