Re: electroacoustics - rap to tap

Subject: Re: electroacoustics - rap to tap
Date: Wed Jul 07 2004 - 10:47:00 EDT

I would call any form of decoration, dancing, singing, and so on "art." It
is so fundamental a part of biological human nature that the evolution of
"modern" human beings is commonly dated by reference to the appearance of
works of art in the archeological record.

But you are certainly making a valid distinction between "fine art" and art
for daily use. And I agree that fine art is indeed culturally caused. All
societies have art, in my view, but certainly not all societies have fine
art. Only civilized societies (roughly speaking!) have fine art, and it is
one of the main markers of civilization.

It is instructive that ea audiences and makers alike resist "tape music"
which is the ultimate form of music (in my radical opinion). This is
because there is absolutely no context -- it is absolutely rootless music.
You can't watch the performers, you can't change the tempo, etc., etc. So
there is a nostalgia for performance and a desire for "interactive" pieces.

How do you use tape music? In practice, you listen to it on headphones or a
stereo, usually by yourself, perhaps while driving, perhaps while going to
sleep, perhaps just to listen to it. Or you put it on as background while
doing something else (cooking, working). Or you use it for movie music. Or
for modern dance performances. Or maybe TV jingles. That's about it. It's
not danced to in clubs. It's not hummed. It's not played in church, at
funerals, at weddings, or at graduations. In other words, it's not part of
any social rituals. It is the ultimate condition of fine art -- to be
appreciated only by connoisseurs and only in acts of connoisseurship (is
that a word?).

At the same time, as we all know, the music that is danced to in clubs,
etc., etc., is increasingly made with the same tools as used by ea
musicians (or tools critically depending on computer music researches) and
there is an esthetic influence as well. So the influence of art music on
popular music and commercial music very much continues.

My own approach is just to make the music that I want to hear, and let it
go at that. I only ever wanted to make art music anyway. I figure if it's
any good, it will come out in the wash.

Original Message:
From: Richard Wentk
Date: Wed, 07 Jul 2004 14:05:41 +0100
Subject: Re: electroacoustics - rap to tap

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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