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Music was important to the birth of abstract art, since music is abstract by nature—it does not try to represent the exterior world, but expresses in an immediate way the inner feelings of the soul. Wassily Kandinsky often used musical terms to identify his works; he called his most spontaneous paintings "improvisations" and described more elaborate works as "compositions". Kandinsky theorized that "music is the ultimate teacher," and subsequently embarked upon the first seven of his ten Compositions. Hearing tones and chords as he painted, Kandinsky theorized that (for example), yellow is the color of middle C on a brassy trumpet; black is the color of closure, and the end of things; and that combinations of colors produce vibrational frequencies, akin to chords played on a piano. In 1871 the young Kandinsky learned to play the piano and cello. Kandinsky's stage design for a performance of Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" illustrates his "synaesthetic" concept of a universal correspondence of forms, colors and musical sounds.

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