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Sound as Art

November 4, 2009

I was hoping that with Explorations wrapping up until 2010, I would have some time to post on some other things that have been on the back burner, but life has not dealt me those cards.  Or so I think.  I’m going to attempt the trick where I try to write something now even though I don’t really have the time for it and see if I’ll start automatically finding time in the near future.  Wish me luck…

I know a lot of people who have a difficulty grasping really complicated music from the 20th/21st Century and/or find minimalism to be so simple that its boring and/or listen to Cage on my urging and say “what’s the point?”  One of these days I’m going to strangle one of these people.

I imagine that this same group of people would respond to Rothko as untalented, or say that ANYONE could do what Mondrian did.  (I have in fact disrupted the peace of an art museum once when my ex-girlfriend said that to me, actually)

I think these people are looking at those works in a way they weren’t intended to be looked at.  On a much smaller level, its like looking at a painting of a bowl of fruit and saying “I don’t get it, that landscape is TERRIBLE.”  Its like listening to Clapping Music and wondering when the Soprano is going to enter with her Aria.

At the heart of this, in my mind, is musical (and art)  literacy.  If a person doesn’t know what they’re listening for, it is going to be much harder for them to appreciate it.  If you don’t understand that one aspect of minimalism is to experience small changes over time, you might appreciate the gorgeous sororities (of bouncing juggling balls), but you’re missing a huge part of the music.  If you don’t approach Cage’s music with the serious playfulness he approached his own music, you’re going to be left feeling like you missed the point or that the music was dumb.  If you’re presented with an electroacoustic soundpainting without understanding that the piece is an exploration of timbre (you would, understandably, also need to know what the hell Timbre meant.), you might find the work abrasive and unmusical.

I personally love to just wash my eyes out in the colors of Rothko or consider my different reactions to various Mondrian pieces that are only slightly different.  I’m not expecting to be moralised to or told a story or worship the Heavens when I see this sort of art.  If I was, I’d be left a little bewildered.

One more thing… I know I already linked to it, but the Reich Clapping Music Video with Jugglers is GREAT.  Also, it really helps to illustrate the music and teach someone what the big deal is because you can see the different juggling balls bouncing.  You can see the music and hear it, and that’s really awesome.

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