Re: electroacoustics - rap to tap

Subject: Re: electroacoustics - rap to tap
From: Richard Wentk (
Date: Wed Jul 07 2004 - 09:05:41 EDT

At 21:06 06/07/2004 -0400, you wrote:
>Since every society has art, it's clear that art is not social but
>biological or, in other words, part of "human nature." If you could show me
>a society without art, I'd have to say that art was socially caused, but
>that's obviously not the case.

People in lots of cultures seem to decorate things, often with a ritual

But that's not the same as our idea of art, which includes building
galleries, putting on concerts, and creating international music
distribution networks.

It's interesting that for the most part we no longer of the more purely
decorative practices as art. There are crafts (pots and carpets) and
entertainment (Britney, notoriously) but the kinds of practices and rituals
*we* think of art in the West are definitely not standard among other

Or you could argue they are, and that going to see someone tootling Bach on
an organ is just a slightly more abstract form of ancestor worship. That
might well be more true than we like to think it is.

So I think some sort of aesthetic and decorative intent is definitely
biological. Humans invest an almost unbelievable amount of time and energy
making sure that whatever they do isn't purely functional. But the Western
idea of art is definitely a step or five beyond that, and very much
culturally determined.

>But you're right with respect to the problems of art today. We are indeed
>rootless. That doesn't mean we can't have art, but it makes it kind of

I think it's because we no longer experience much art first hand, and even
when we do, it's a commercial ritual rather than a social one. When art was
decorative and ritualised, you'd typically know the artist personally and
you'd have a direct everyday experience of their work. Even in the
Renaissance artists typically had political allegiance to their city states
and were expected to take part directly in the political and religious life
around them.

At some point - possibly the end of the Romantic period - Art became
formalised and institutional, and the direct link between creator and
audience began to disappear. Now there's a good chance that a successful
artist will only ever have personal contact with a disposably tiny fraction
of their audience. But because of electronic distribution, it can seem like
that connection is there - while at the same time being obvious (to most
sane people) that really it isn't.

It's one of the problems for EA that anything that comes through a
loudspeaker has that distanced, slightly caricatured and virtual quality to
it. So it lends itself very easily to parody and quotation, because playing
*anything* through a speaker puts it in quote marks and distances it from
direct experience.

It's maybe interesting to wonder about work that doesn't do that, or tries
to deal with that limitation in a creative way.


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