Doorways: A Musical Exploration of Time, Movement, and Perspective

Inspired by the museum’s portals and passageways, Neighborhood Luminary and Berklee College of Music Associate Professor Kevin Harris explores the idea of how time and movement create perspective through musical compositions.

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"Doorways" is a commissioned solo piano work that seeks to represent who we become in between the doorways of time and experiences in our lives minute to minute, week to week, generation to generation.

The composition honors the ancestors who have walked through doorways and paved the way for us to live with more intentional awareness thus, allowing future generations to walk through doorways that our choices will open or close for them.

A hallway with a decorated dark red rug and a painted blue staircase on the right. There is a doorway at the end of the hallway.

Second Floor Stair Hall and the Doorway to the Dutch Room, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston
Photo: Sean Dungan

Upon a walk through the Gardner Museum that my wife and I enjoyed last year, she curiously commented on the various perspectives offered by each museum doorway. She commented that “the act of entering a room can be difficult and yet fulfilling and this experience adds a new perspective to our lives.” Her considerations inspired me to explore the concept of doorways more deeply and symbolically. Instead of composing a music work dedicated to a particular doorway in the Gardner Museum, I created a musical composition dedicated to our ability as human beings to practice attaining new perspectives from the many circumstances, i.e. “doorways,” in our lives. 

A room covered in brown tapestries with a doorway entering into a red room with paintings.

Doorway from the Veronese Room to the Titian Room, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston
Photo: Sean Dungan

Many visitors at the Gardner museum walk quickly from room to room in anticipation of what’s in the next room. Conversely, other museum visitors linger pondering the impression of the room in which they patiently sit. To what degree, I wondered, do museum guests experience their own perspectives? And in doing so, not assimilate to the opinions of others, but instead, resolutely develop and form their own point of view?

A dark red room with panels on the walls with a doorway leading into a green room with a column in the middle of that room.

Doorway from the Worthington Street Lobby to the Rear Hall, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston
Photo: Sean Dungan

Beyond the consideration of what was aesthetically important, my thinking behind the composition “Doorways” was to employ the courageous power of deviating from one's tangible outlook in life to further develop new and more fluid viewpoints.

From room to room in the Museum, I found myself asking:

What are our symbolic doorways in life? Doorways of time, of thoughts, of emotions, of spirituality? How aware are we as we pass through doorways of time? To what degree do we desire to break free from previously formed perceptions that hinder us from seeing a more broad picture? In between those doorways, do we aspire to identify what is beautiful and worthy of relevance juxtaposed to what we fear or dislike? Perhaps neither or both.

“Doorways” is a composition for solo piano sounding out soulful melodies that surface and resurface in various keys and rhythms. It symbolically represents our own continued evolution from the “room to room” journeys of our life. It is a call to the listener to imagine their own evolving circumstances with a bold curiosity thus creating a potential masterpiece of ourselves in the many moments and passages of our lives.

Listen to Kevin Harris perform “Doorways” and “Music Box” and watch his Luminary Lens video.

“Doorways” (8:59 )

Composed by Kevin Harris, performed at Calderwood Hall, 2 December 2021

“Music Box” (5:59 )

Composed by Kevin Harris, performed at Calderwood Hall, 2 December 2021

Watch on YouTube

Enjoy "Doorways," a short documentary featuring pianist, composer, and Gardner Museum Neighborhood Salon Luminary Kevin Harris.

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