I was listening to NPR this morning on my way into work, and they did a feature on today’s auction of the famous Munch painting, The Scream. I was pretty shocked to hear that it sold for $120 million. Amazing, right? Although I studied this piece in college, I had never heard the inscription Munch had painted on the original frame, which is:
“I was walking along a path with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.”
To quote from the NPR program, “Art historian and psychoanalyst Laurie Wilson says the image touches on something primitive within all of us, because we were all once young and helpless like the hairless creature in the picture, wordless and afraid. She says Munch managed to convey something all human beings have felt at some time: “I am overwhelmed. I am helpless. There is nothing I can do and when I try to convey it, in some way, whether I am screaming or expressing some of what nature is screaming at me, other people ignore it.””
While I was listening to this, I thought of the Radiohead song “Climbing Up the Walls.” Thom Yorke says of this song:
“This is about the unspeakable. Literally skull-crushing. I used to work in a mental hospital around the time that Care In The Community started, and we all just knew what was going to happen. And it’s one of the scariest things to happen in this country, because a lot of them weren’t just harmless… It was hailing violently when we recorded this. It seemed to add to the mood.”
“Some people can’t sleep with the curtains open in case they see the eyes they imagine in their heads every night burning through the glass. Lots of people have panic buttons fitted in their bedrooms so they can reach over and set the alarm off without disturbing the intruder. This song is about the cupboard monster.”
I feel like this song and the painting, The Scream, could be shown/played together with perfect cohesion. The feeling of anxiety builds to the scream, which happens on 3:10 with a screeching guitar solo. $120 million.