Warning: philosophy in progress. Proceed with caution
In my last post I spent a lot of time railing at what essentially you could call “The Trap™” that is the professional recording/performance/composition industry. I spoke of how creating music is an internal ambition and the motivation for Art needs to be one of un-suppressed wonder and exploration, not naked and unbridled social lust.
I wanted to get across in that blog post (mostly conversing with myself) that I was trying to express the awakening of my-self to the idea that music – for me – is inherently artistic and more than that, it is an external manifestation of complex inspirations and a development of mind, body, spirit. I cursed those who would make music for popularities sake while exalting the brave musician who pursues significance at the cost of popular cultural relevance.
Having said that…
There may come a time when you are sick of your bedroom studio or your alcove in the corner and mayhap you feel ready to express. Perhaps it is an eloquent soliloquy, a thumping beat, or perhaps an epic soaring counterpoint. Deep down it may come to you as a fever, a primary energetic urge, but mostly likely it will emerge as the need to exhort the gods of good fortune to allow you the slimmest of chances, so that you, like all the rest, will get a moment where you can deliver a climactic emotional experience through the revelry of sharing creative works with a larger audience.
I think this is a point that I am reaching and it is one that I am keen to explore. I have dwelt in the cave of deep personal exploration (not like that 😛 ) and I feel stressed at the seams, ready to explode (not like that either). I feel ready to spew forth my individualism and seek social interaction in an ecstatic orgy of human connection through distribution and performance.
Ahem… let’s just Stop. Hammer time. (Mrs Hungee – *facepalm*)
It sounds really contradictory doesn’t it? Here I was railing at the social lust of others while exhibiting a similar sentiment. Naturally I am going to defend my position but before I do, I would like to ask a question that I will get back to later in this piece.
“If there is no purpose to a piece of Art, is there value in the Art? Or is an Artwork’s value defined by its purpose and also by its relative success in fulfilling that purpose.”
Heady words… But let’s move on for the moment and consider something else.
I used to believe in the idea that “Music is only valuable once it is played to people. Music requires receiving ears to be worthwhile.” This quote seemed to me to be a very sensible and logical statement and since it was a paraphrasing of a quote by a Metallica band member it was also quite self-serving. If you are one of the most listened to bands of all time you will probably see artistic merit as an extension of that most powerful of metrics. But what else can the humble and quiet back-of-the-bus muso use to judge and refine their work?
Friends and family? Sure… If you want people that say they love it. What else? The opinion of peers, teachers and other humans can seem worthwhile but in actuality is it really that valuable to you as an artist? It might improve your craftsmanship, but is that what you are asking for? Are you wanting to improve craftsmanship, or artistic-ness? To be perfectly straight, If you are a truly great artist most of the good praise will come after you are dead and that is of no use to anyone who is trying to improve their art. What about other metrics? Maybe the way it looks, the way it sounds, different audiophile environments or emotional response in chimps? What about how it inspires or emotively touches small children or large children or adults (who are also at times… children?)
What possible metric can you personally use to judge your work objectively? It seems to me an impossible task because music is inherently a subjective item. Think about it. My old teachers would ask my classmates and I, “What is music?” and we would all say,
“Music is organised sounds.”
(Groaning as we did from the repetition)
Yet that statement is actually very profound and not just because it opens almost any sound combination up as music. In fact let us really dig in and re-word that statement more specifically. Let us instead say,
“Works of Music are; More than one sonic impulse organised by a conscious being, in a way that conscious beings can interpret as organised and integrate into a contiguous set of sonic impulses that make sense as more than their separate parts.”
Hmmm… That is of course a very long sentence and one that my teachers would naturally have not wanted to explain / teach. I can see the hypothetical head scratching in the classroom as I write this post. However for the sake of argument we can say that this statement is the full unabridged version of what that original statement entails and it is from this that we can draw a couple of interesting logical conclusions.
Firstly, music is subjective and so is Art. There is no objective truth inherent in these works that we create. By necessitating a subjective filter this statement defines Art itself as subjective. On this we are on solid philosophical ground. Naturally therefore, it is only in the interpretation of the Art into organized patterns that these sounds have purpose.
Furthermore, it is only in the complex process of pattern recognition and interpretation that these artworks create meaning for the listener. (Pattern recognition, which is defined by a person’s experience)
In a very real way you can say;
Experience = Brain filtering = Response to stimuli = Experience = Ad Infinitum
Secondly, of great interest is the idea that due to the individual nature of each mind (itself a unique creation), the work of Art is, due to the very nature of the thing created anew in every single individual as it is filtered through a unique set of processes and memories to create an emotional response. In effect we can then take a leap and say:
“The art is not the work, but rather the individual response.”
Let that sink in for a moment… Fucking deep, isn’t it?
Ok, take a moment and a deep breath and adjust your brain pants from stretching due to (what Mrs Hungee calls) a “thought boner” that I just gave you.
At this stage it is now important to return to my earlier seemingly random and isolated statement and also to conclude my opening statements.
“If there is no purpose to a piece of Art, is there value in the Art? Or is an Artwork’s value defined by its purpose and also by its relative success in fulfilling that purpose?”
To answer this, please indulge me in a final thought experiment.
Imagine that you create a piece of music, a single tune that has no overt craftsmanship or style, the order which the sounds play is chosen by throwing darts at a board covered in pitch symbols so that even though it may appear chaotic, it was in fact organized (via your throwing arm) by a conscious being and is therefore by our earlier definition, “music. You were not inspired, it has no perceivable social value and it has no specific meaning to you. Does this piece of music have purpose?
My answer is No. (except for the added value of throwing pointy things at a wall)
The question therefore is now,
“Does it have value?”
My answer here is, yes.
Earlier, I stated that “The art is not the work, but rather the response.” – which may be taken to infer that in the case of purposeless music that may produce indifference, is still at some point in your life filtering through your conscious, informing every other work you will ever hear in your life and also creating stimuli that inspires emotion and thought. It has meaning because it creates a subjective response. Not because it is defining an objective truth or because it is a killer dance track.
It has value without having purpose because the Art is the response not the object that causes it.
To conclude this post I must finish by addressing my opening statement:
Am I a total sell-out to want to perform my music live, to desire the opportunity to express my creative works to a crowd larger than one?
After all this philosophizing and thought experimentation the answer I arrive at is no, I don’t think it is vanity, or social yearning that drives me. I think it is the natural urge to create again and again, and to yearn for my Art to create a multitude of responses, each unique, different and more wonderful than the last. Perhaps it is my Egoic self, lying to drive me towards the dark places of my soul. However I think I can balance that argument by thinking about the juicy tantalising thought that;
“Art is never finished as long as there are more conscious filters to process the Artist’s creations.”
So there it is. A delicious thought with much potential and one I personally intend to pursue… Cautiously.
Editor’s note: And a final thought boner for you Mr Hungee, the Art is also in the creating. The beauty is in the creator’s expression as well. You yourself(Hungee) have experienced this – Mrs Hungee