Re: (More) Cool sounds from outer space!

Subject: Re: (More) Cool sounds from outer space!
From: Michael Gogins (
Date: Mon Aug 01 2005 - 13:44:00 EDT

Thanks for your comments, which I read with interest.

I'll respond only to one. Here I depart from what I think is generally held. This my own personal opinion, but I think I can make a good case for it.

Art is a thing, or a physical phenomenon at any rate, even if fleeting. The reason I focus on this is to oppose the kind of thinking which seems to say that everything is "subjective" in the sense that a given work of art, even a "classic", has no intrinsic worth and no stable basis of value. In my view, if there is no art with a physical basis, then the art experience is constrained by that basis in a very serious way -- no doubt there are many ways, many fruitful ways that it can be experienced, but successful artists succeeded in fashioning the object in such a way as to create a desired experience or, at least, a desired range of experiences and very much to exclude undesired experiences (e.g. fidgeting, inattention). Of course if the experience of the art has a physical basis, then the experience of the art has an objective basis. And of course, if the experience of art has an objective basis, then what it is interesting about it is to some considerable extent contained!
  in that, where of course it is much more amenable to study.

I sympathise with those who oppose "canons" and who suspect claims of objective worth in the arts as being merely the claims of party spirit and special pleading, e.g. "imperialism", because I think this very much does happen. But I have no interest in throwing out the baby with the dirty water. It's no accident that we're still playing Bach and still going to see Euripides, and it's not because we have a certain subjective taste, either.

Hearing music in one's head -- I do that sometimes, I think all composers do, some more than others. I do not regard this as art. With luck and skill, I may be able to use this experience to make some art. This is by no means to deny the worth or intrinsic interest of this kind of experience, which is well worth studying. But if it ain't a thing, nobody's going to attend it but me so it's pretty hard to talk about and, for sure, nobody else can use it to use to make more art. I think it's more like shamanism or, again, like creative work in any field (I do enough math for my music that I know that mathematical creativity can achieve the same vivid, almost physical power of experience).


-----Original Message-----
From: bill thompson <>
Sent: Aug 1, 2005 11:50 AM
Subject: Re: (More) Cool sounds from outer space!

hi michael,

i don't know about disputing them, but i'll discuss
them if you want ;)

i think your comment about it being human to make art
is true, but there's research that it's not exclusive
to humans. i've been looking for the article that i
read and of course can't find it, but i did find this
article which illustrates some of what i remember

and as to art having to have a physical component,
common sense says you need a 'thing' to get the ball
rolling i guess but i think often people get caught up
with the art existing in the object instead of in the
experience of the object...sounds nit-picky but to me
it's very significant because it means that the same
attention we give to 'great works' of art, could be
paid to other parts of our lives and we could have
aesthetic experiences related to the level of
attention that we lend out...this works for
me...something about paying attention makes things
seem beautiful. actually, i often think that that's
the point of galleries/ give us a place to
practice paying attention...i often leave galleries
and can't stop myself from being awed by the
surrounding objects i encounter afterwards.

so as much as we are physical beings that live in a
physical world, i'd say art has a physical component
yes, but it's the experience that counts and not the
object, and not every object will create the same
experience for every person, or the same person each
time they encounter it (this is discussed quite a bit
by ingarden btw, much better then i'm doing)..or
choose to encounter/interact with it...for me, it
doesn't necessarily come 'from' the object as much as
the person chooses to go towards and engage with
it...when i'm not into a show, it doesn't matter how
good it is, it sucks for me (lol))

and as to 'no private experience of art'...i think
every experience of art is private...but i don't think
you meant it in this way (?) but what about the
experience of your own art before others hear it? or
when you hear a piece in your head before you've
manifested it? i've had a few of those experiences
that were quite intense and exciting (and only a
couple of times been really successful manifesting
them physically)...well, maybe they don't count as
art, but they feel quite the same at the time. i
think i might be being nit-picky here maybe, but i get
weird about absolutes.

i don't have any issues with art being confused with
engineering or physics or politics (or religion) but
all these fields can inform art (for me)...i couldn't
'do' my art with out the engineers that created the
hard/software i use, the research the physicist did
into sound that i read, or the, well i don't really
take religious/political considerations into my art
consciously, so no problems there...but others do use
'art' to promote politics, as they do religion...and
skills from art to illustrate points/concept of
physics and engineering (there's a good book 'art and
physics' that discusses this...some feel it's too
light but i liked it)...and is there 'an art' to
programming, or good math, or anything else an
extremely high level of skill and finesse can be
applied to? but yes, i agree, the point of art isn't
physics or engineering or a political message, but the
aesthetic experience...which for me feels, not
religious, but spiritual, transcendent etc...

and as to art outlasting its maker and informing other
cultures, that's why i'm doing it! (ok, just kidding,
well, not really)...there is that wanting to create
something that will live on, away, and after, you. i
think actually that is a huge part of the creative
urge. but also, some of the most beautiful art is the
most ephemeral...great improvisation...yes, it can be
recorded and (re)experienced way, but nothing like
being there at that moment. also the work of andy
goldsworthy comes to mind, who creates impermanent
sculptures who's 'temporariness' seems to make them
more precious to me (here's a link:
but these aren't contradictions to your statement,
just a few asides.


--- Michael Gogins <> wrote:

> What a wonderful can of worms.
> The definition of art depends upon one's theology,
> politics, and probably even one's brand of
> metamathematics or computer science. That much I
> think we can agree on! But I think there are other
> things we can agree on.
> I think another thing we can all agree on, is that
> every human society known to us has made and used
> art. So, I think it's fair to say one can't be fully
> human without it.
> Another thing that's pretty clear, is that there is
> no art without an art object, a physical phenomenon,
> even if it is as fleeting and evanescent as a mime
> at midnight or a string quartet behind a curtain or
> conceptual art carried in a pamphlet or on a
> whisper. No mind-to-mind transmission or private
> experience in art. It is physically transmitted.
> Another thing beyond dispute is that art is not
> science, politics, or engineering. It does not make
> other things happen, at least not directly. You
> can't use it to study physics or get elected.
> Another indisputable fact about art is that, for
> those with some exposure or connoisseurship, some
> art is far, far better than other art and one
> quality of the best art is a compelling power, an
> ability to pull you in and make you pay attention,
> to surprise you and almost possess you, to keep you
> humming the tune or re-telling the story or making
> your clothes a certain way.
> Also another thing about art that's beyond dispute,
> some of it far outlasts its makers and even its
> culture and era of making and goes on to compel
> audiences far away from and long after it was made.
> So much so, that it contributes to forming later
> cultures at a fundamental level.
> Another fact is that art is integrated into
> religious ritual in every last religion, and art is
> used to explicitly illustrate or convey religion.
> And art seems to do a better job at this than at
> conveying physics (with a minor nod towards science
> fiction literature).
> Anyone want to dispute these things? I think they go
> a long way towards showing what art is.
> Regards,
> Mike
> -----Original Message-----
> From: bill thompson <>
> Sent: Aug 1, 2005 5:46 AM
> To:
> Subject: Re: (More) Cool sounds from outer space!
> i think we need to be careful relying on a
> dictionary
> to define what art is. i'm not being an ass, but
> this
> year i've been reading book after book on aesthetics
> and if there's anything that's consistent, it's that
> no 'definition' seems to be able to 'define' what
> art
> is consistently (at least not from book to book,
> author to author, or time period to time
> period...perhaps that's the strength of art?...)
> for me, it's better to talk about an 'aesthetic
> experience' rather then trying to define art...then
> we
> don't have to worry about if 'i' am communicating
> 'something' via 'art' too you...of if it's
> 'intentional' 'creative' or whatever...the focus
> moves
> more to the experiencer, which is really where 'art'
>'s not in the's in the
> experience.
> i happen to be able to have that experience
> listening
> to beethoven (not so much mozart though) as well as
> listening to buildings in the wind, found cassettes,
> and cicadas at night. i honestly feel sad for
> people
> (this isn't directed specifically at you) that
> can't/don't have those experiences...they miss out
> on
> SO MUCH BEAUTY for whatever reasons....because
> they're
> not supposed to? or it's not valid? they feel silly?
> i
> don't know.
> for me, what i do know, is i don't care if it's
> 'art'
> (or music, or sound art, or whatever)...i care about
> what it sounds like, how i experience it.
> words are tools, good ones! useful. but they're not
> the thing in itself...point to the moon all you
> want,
> just stop looking at my finger :)
> b.
> --- "Jan L." <> wrote:
> >
> > If words mean something it makes discussion
> easier.
> > Otherwise we can
> > go back to grunting (which would be an interesting
> > exercise ;=))
> >
> > Much as I dearly love the soundscape in the woods
> > here - it is really
> > wunderschoen but it is not art.
> >
> > On the other hand I have heard much EA that I
> think
> > is pure bullshit.
> > But I would call it art. Bad art in my opinion.
> >
> > Here is what wikipedia says:
> > Characteristics of art
> >
> > - Requires creative perception both by the artist
> > and by the audience
> > - Elusive
> > - Communicates on many levels and is open to many
> > interpretations
> > - Connotes a sense of ability
> > - Interplay between the conscious and unconscious
> > part of our being,
> > between what is real and what is an illusion
> > - Any human creation which contains an idea other
> > than its
> > utilitarian purpose.
> > - That which is created with intention to be
> > experienced as art
> >
> >
> > /Jan L.
> >
> >
> > 1 aug 2005 kl. 05.32 skrev Jean-Marc Pelletier:
> >
> > > Just in case, some found my original answer to
> > > a bit short:
> > >
> > > Last week, we had an ea concert at our school.
> > About half-way
> > > through I got up and left. I even left in the
> > middle of a piece,
> > > which I reckon was rude, but I really didn't
> feel
> > like staying any
> > > longer. I went outside and laid in the grass,
> > watching the stars
> > > and listening to the chorus of cicadas, crickets
> > and frogs,
> > > accompanied by the wind brushing the nearby
> trees.
> > I couldn't help
> > > feeling that all of this was infinitely more
> > beautiful and
> > > interesting than anything I'd heard or seen in
> the
> > half concert I
> > > attended. This isn't a statement about art. It's
> > not a statement
> > > about music, not even about that particular
> > concert, just my
> > > current state of mind. I haven't bought all that
> > many CDs recently,
> > > and haven't really listened to those I did buy.
> > Instead my
> > > fascination for the order of the world around me
> > has grown.
> > >
> > > I linked to the first sample, the one from
> Saturn,
> > because of its
> > > uncanny resemblance to 1960s SF soundtracks
> > inspired by the Barons'
> > > work. My use of the adjective "cool" was
> strictly
> > tongue in cheek.
> > > I was trying to capture a little of that 1960s
> > camp in my choice of
> > > words. I might have failed.
> > >
> > > The VLT recordings are somewhat different. As
> some
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"The more you think about things the weirder they seem." -Calvin

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