Re: (More) Cool sounds from outer space!

Subject: Re: (More) Cool sounds from outer space!
From: Jean-Marc Pelletier (
Date: Mon Aug 01 2005 - 22:10:54 EDT

Like I wrote before, I'm not interested in defending a definition of
art, but I don't think we can agree on all the points you raised.

Michael Gogins wrote:

>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.
It depends what you mean by art. We can all agree, I hope, that humans
have this innate urge to modify the environment around them. We're homo
faber, as Max Frisch would say. However, many languages do not have a
word for art, at least not beyond "making things".

>Another thing that's pretty clear, is that there is no art without an art object, a physical phenomenon,
Bill addressed this point and mirrored my views somewhat, and you
addressed it in further detail. It's a valid and defensible position but
it's not universal.

>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.
Again, I don't think you can go so far as to say it's beyond dispute.
Above, I mentioned our urge to modify, to make. Humans are also innately
curious and social. That is to say, more than any other animal -- by a
very large margin -- we seek to know and understand and have an almost
irresistible instinct to share our knowledge. (See how hard it is to
keep a secret.) To make, to know, to share, those are the three pillars
of humanity. Art is to make, science is to know. That's a very classical
and broad definition, but I find it more useful than any other.

Is writing a computer program fundamentally different from writing
algorithmic music? Where do you draw the line between art and design?
Can't you look at a Mucha poster in the same way you would a Klimt
drawing? Isn't there a spectrum of activity between gardening and city
planning? Interior decoration and bridge-building? Is "The
Internationale" art or politics? Is Tom Johnson writing music or doing
math vulgarisation?

I am a pragmatist, not an idealist, which is why we might not agree. In
the end, I ask myself "what difference does it make?" As a maker, I have
some goals, the art is being able to achieve them, or at least achieve
*something*. However, as a watcher, a listener, a knower, my concern is
finding value in my experiences. I do not make a distinction between
listening to birdsong and listening to Bach, because this distinction
might limit the value I find in either. I do not make a (fundamental)
distinction between creating music and writing a computer program
because this distinction might hinder the creativity and skills required
to successfully managing both.

There's no doubt that for me, listening to Bach's Ciaccona is an intense
aesthetic experience. Looking at mount Fuji at dusk also is, though.


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