Mormon Artists Group

announces the publication of


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Sixteen American composers who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were invited to participate in a collaborative project initiated by Mormon Artists Group. The premise was simple: each composer was to select a visual artwork created by an LDS artist and then write a piano composition inspired by it. Together, the finished piano works form a new, 16-movement concert work for the piano. The resulting score, a celebration of LDS artists and composers, is titled Mormoniana (Mor-mo-ni-a-na).

Alongside the composers, visual artist Valerie Atkisson was engaged to create two original artworks on the theme of music (the first for the front cover, and the second, a large image to be bound into the volume as a frontispiece). Michael Hicks, himself a gifted composer, accepted an invitation to author an essay on the topic of Mormon music. Finally, the distinguished concert pianist Grant Johannesen agreed to place the compositions in sequence and record the score.

The process of creating the music began with each composer selecting a visual artwork and then responding to it musically. The composers approached this task in various ways. Some composers reacted to the visual work (painting, graphic work or photography) in a literal fashion and created a musical sibling of the image. For others, it was sufficient that an artwork and music share a related atmosphere. A few of the composers engaged in a dialogue directly with the visual artists and, upon discovering a common theme, explored similarities and differences of approach. There was no specific direction given regarding the connection of music and art, only that the music react in

some way to the visual art.

The volume, Mormoniana, includes the complete score of sixteen compositions, the reproductions of the artworks that each composer selected, the CD recording, the essay, and the original editioned print. Each copy is signed by the artist and numbered.


Valerie Atkisson, a compelling young LDS artist whose installations and sculpture have been the

increasing focus of exhibitions in New York and in the west, created original artworks for the project. Atkisson’s art thematically responds to an urge to connect, typically over a broad expanse of time and cultures. Her recent, large installations of sculptures and wall paintings trace the names, stories and sites of her family history.

For example, Atkisson spent the duration of a recent exhibition in New York City’s prominent gallery for emerging artists, Artists Space, in a white gallery room, scrawling onto the walls in tiny letters and numbers the names and dates of her ancestry. For an artworld public, the sight of an artist visually labeling several centuries of her own past was mesmerizing. It went beyond the scope of genealogy or artistic performance; her installation hit the viewer as a pure and strange detailing of a world freed of mortality.

Valerie Atkisson’s other paintings, sculptures and installations have dealt with the ways one person’s experience is inherited by another, the charted bestowal of legacy.

For Mormoniana, Valerie Atkisson decided to respond to the shapes and colors of musical notation throughout multiple centuries. The resulting artwork, “Notation in Time,” incorporates musical marks spanning four thousand years and includes such diverse sources as illuminated manuscripts, Byzantine chant, Bach and Beethoven manuscripts, early American “Sacred Harp” notation, and contemporary computer-generated note-making instructions. To this found vocab-

ulary of notational marks, Atkisson improvised landscapes of imagery that the musical notes suggested to her using the methods of a visual artist to bridge the gap between sight and sound.

A goauche painting followed, ultimately culminating in a finished work which was digitally scanned

and then manipulated to incorporate further imagery.

Atkisson also created an untitled drawing for the volume’s front cover. It is reproduced on the bookcloth in twelve-color embroidery. The other visual artists in the volume (selected by each composer) include two from among the earliest artists in church history—British painter Alfred Lambourne (1850-1926), and William Weeks (1813-1900), the architect of the Nauvoo temple. The remaining artists are contemporary painters, photographers, and printmakers. They are: Monte Anderson, Ray Andrus, Natasha Brien, Matthew Day, Thomas Epting, David Linn, Jon Moe, Stephen Moore, Peter Livingston Myer, Sallie Clinton Poet, Walter Rane, Bruce Hixson Smith, V. Douglas Snow, Lane Twitchell, and Leslie Williams. Each of the artists, their estate representatives, or the holders of image rights has kindly granted permission for their works to be reproduced in the volume.


One of the twentieth century’s most celebrated pianists, Grant Johannesen made his orchestral

debut at age fifteen in his hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah. His subsequent debut recitals in New

York and his soloist debut with the New York Philharmonic under George Szell elicited glowing

critical appraisals, the likes of which have followed him throughout his career, now in its sixth decade.

Of his playing recently, The New York Times has remarked: “One of the true artists at the keyboard.” The New Yorker describes him as, “One who stands among the truly distinguished masters of his instrument.” What is less well known, even by Mormon audiences, is that Grant Johannesen has also championed music by Mormon composers throughout his career, including principal works by Arthur Shepherd, Leroy Robertson, Crawford Gates, Robert Cundick, and Helen Taylor. Mormoniana, recorded at the historic Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah, is co-produced by the Heritage Series imprint of Tantara Records. It is Johannesen’s fifty-first recording.


Is there such a thing as Mormon music?

In his essay for Mormoniana, “Toward (and Away From) The Mormonistic,” Michael Hicks tackles

the question of Mormon music with uncommon zeal and unflinching candor. Michael Hicks,

professor of music theory and composition at Brigham Young University, is the author of the books

Mormonism and Music: A History (1989); Sixties Rock: Garage, Psychedelic, and Other Satisfactions (2000); and Henry Cowell, Bohemian (2002). He begins the essay directly: Mormons think there ought to be something called “Mormon music.” But read that sentence again and you see the problem: “Mormon” is a noun posing as an adjective....  Hicks then presents a facinating overview of liturgical music history and the commonalities of Americanism and Mormonism before he explores how we got here, musically.

One idea for Mormon music’s “distinguishing characteristics,” this one proposed by British emigrant John Tullidge in 1858, was that Mormonism should have “a different style of music to that dolorous, whining class, so incompatible with praise from grateful hearts.” This was clearly spoken by a newly converted immigrant: to those leaving the British Isles, Mormondom represented new hope, “freshness and vigour,” as Tullidge put it, optimism and liberty. What he didn’t acknowledge, perhaps did not even sense, was that for American-born Mormons (certainly first-generation ones), Mormonism was blanketed by a sense of tragedy. The illness, bloodshed, imprisonments, torchings, and ransacking the American Saints had endured certainly would have led to the “dolorous” (if not the “whining”). But the British emigrants, by dint of their numbers and their superior academic training transformed the implicit sorrow of at least some Mormon music into fanfaring jubilance.

At the end of the nineteenth century, LDS composer and Mormon Tabernacle Choir director Evan Stephens echoed the requirement that Mormon music be resolutely cheerful, as Hicks writes:

...The sound of Mormon music, he said, is “that which breathes optimism and not pessi-

mism.” If Mormons composed any somber music, it “must not predominate, but be used only as a means of contrast to heighten the effects of the bright.” Mormon communities instinctively understood that, he noted. When music was presented to them that did not seem optimistic, he said, it should be publicly censured. (It usually is not, he added, simply because of the innate charity of those hearers who rightfully disapprove it.)

The essay continues with a chronicle of the upheavals of the twentieth century, particularly of the

1960s, their effect on American culture, music and on the Mormon church as an international entity.

In the latter third of the twentieth century, an unsually self-reflective period in Mormon history, with the church now well-established as a major religion and not just an embellishment to Protestantism, intellectuals and artists were really surveying the church as part of Mormonism, rather than vice versa. Mormonism and Mormon culture were somehow deeper and wider than the institution of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—not just rivers flowing around the church but the ocean in which the church was an island.  The question became this: if there is such a thing as Mormonism, a peculiar world view, then we should ponder its salient traits. If Impressionism could yield works that were Impressionistic, shouldn’t Mormonism yield works that were Mormonistic? A heavy responsibility rides on any “ism”; Mormonism seemed at last prepared for (and by some, eager for) the burden.

...What is most delightfully Mormonistic about the visual and musical art presented here [in Mormoniana] is that it is all over the aesthetic map. It wanders from one frontier to another, confident in a love of the senses and a belief in beauty as a corollary of truth but mistrustful of any attempt to say that it is what it should be, according to some commonly held orthodoxy of art or Mormon-ness. For these artists the aesthetic canon of Mormons is not only open, it is palpably unfinished—and must always remain so. No creeds for these musical and visual artists, who have essentially nothing in common but their membership in a church that enjoins the divinity of all and the sanctity of the senses. Their Mormon-ness as Mormons may be rooted in common convictions and moral values, along with their sense of consecrating their art to the God and church they celebrate. But their work, their business, is independent,at last, in an individual sense. It springs (without the necessity of words) from each artist's continuing progression, not the safety of the community or the stasis of orthodoxy—that is, from the prophetic quest, not priestly guardianship. And what could be more hopeful to a culture than that?....


Christian Asplund, Murray Boren, Todd Coleman, Robert Cundick, Lisa DeSpain, Nathan Fifield, David Fletcher, Crawford Gates, Gaylen Hatton, Jeff Manookian, Lansing D. McLoskey, Reid Nibley, Deon Nielsen Price, David H. Sargent, Rowan Taylor, and Royce Campbell Twitchell.


The format for Mormoniana is quarto, 9 5/8 inches by 12 1/2 inches, 128 pages. The text paper is

Mohawk Superfine. The type is composed digitally and printed by University Lithoprinters, Ann

Arbor, Michigan. Endpapers are Fabriano Tiziano. The volume is hand-sewn into signatures and fullbound by hand over boards in brown Asahi silk, onto which the volume’s title and a twelve-color

drawing are embroidered. Valerie Atkisson has created a limited edition original print—size: 18 by 12 inches, tipped into the volume as a frontispiece—published at Coleman Studios in Orem, Utah using a giclee process with pigmented inks laid onto archival paper. All books are numbered and signed by the artist. The edition is limited to 175 copies for sale, numbered 1-175; and 26 hors de commerce copies (for the collaborators—composers, artist, essayist and pianist) lettered A-Z. Of the 175 for sale, 25 books comprise a deluxe edition which are signed by all the the collaborators and include a duplicate, unbound print with extended margins 22 by 16, with hand-colored additions, and signed and numbered by the artist. The deluxe print is limited to an edition of  25 copies, plus three artist’s proofs, and three publisher’s proofs.

Mormoniana Deluxe edition No longer available

Mormoniana Limited edition No longer available

Mormoniana paperback edition (with CD) - $19.95