The Schmitt Music mural is one of the oldest and most iconic pieces of street art in Minneapolis. This masterpiece is a must-see for connoisseurs of public art and classical music alike. Its history is rooted in the 1970s when the Schmitt Music Company, which at the time was housed in the building, selected a piece of classical music to paint on the exterior wall. An employee chose sheet music from the store and made the decision based on what was the most visually pleasing composition of notes. The mural depicts the song “Gaspard de la Nuit,” from the French composer Maurice Ravel.
Although Schmitt Music Company has since moved to other locations, the mural has continued to receive notoriety. The esotericism of the song itself has attracted attention. For many years, nobody knew what the song was or why it was selected. The five-story painting of sheet music on the building projected an aura of mystery and intrigue, and it caught the eye of several prominent musicians.
Many music lovers have attempted to discover the roots of the music. In the YouTube video below, local Minnesotans are asked for their feedback on this intriguing mural. IThen musician Cornell Blanchard sets up his keyboard in the parking lot and makes the music come to life.
One of the world’s most renowned pianists, Van Cliburn, had a photoshoot in front of the building soon after its completion. The Minneapolis artist Prince also posed to capture his image with the mystery song. Part of the appeal is the complexity of the piece. When the advertising manager for Schmitt Music Company asked for input on what to paint on its exposed brick exterior, the advice was to find something challenging. That they did. “Gaspard de la Nuit” is considered one of the most difficult pieces of music for a solo pianist. Although the building now has different owners, the mural will probably sing into the future. It symbolizes the identity of Minneapolis as a city with a vibrant art scene.
Cover image by Zach K. is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 via Flickr.