Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Music, Art, and Writing

The Impassioned Singer by Giorgione c. 1510

I've been working on the edits for EINE KLEINE MURDER, which will debut in May from Barking Rain Press. I made an excuse to include a quote in the book. It's one of my favorite quotes about music, by Walter Pater, an English art critic and essayist who lived in the 1800s. In an essay on 'The School of Giorgione' (a 15th century painter and musician) he said, "All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music". My characters discuss what this means for a bit, but I think it could use a lot of discussion.

Why would Pater say that? He was writing about a painter who departed from convention and produced works that didn't illustrate a story, a painter who was also a musician.

Here's one interpretation for the wiki gods:  the arts seek to unify subject matter and form, and music is the only art in which subject and form are seemingly one.

OK. But why are subject and form seemingly one in music? Why aren't they one in painting, sculpting, literature, dance, drama? (Those are what comes to my mind when I speak of arts. Others may differ.)

The arts in the preceding paragraph have one thing in common. See if you agree with me. They must all be seen. You can't close your eyes and appreciate them. With drama, you can hear the spoken word, but you can't see the stage sets and the expressions and gestures of the actors.

To me, this is a layer that comes between the art and the mind of the receiver of the art. Visual art must be interpreted by people who perceive colors differently, such as the color blind. Who knows what blue looks like to someone else? No one knows what it looks like to me. In fact, my daughter and I get into heated discussions about what is blue and what is green. (Totally on a tangent, there are languages, such as Vietnamese, Korean, and Thai, that don't have separate words for blue and green. If my daughter and I spoke one of those languages, we would never argue about blue-green, green-blue, turquoise, or aqua.)

Some of the arts are conveyed through words, which are also subject to interpretation and are colored by experience and culture.

But you can close your eyes and receive music straight into your brain. No words, no shapes, no physical form to get in the way.

Another quote reinforces Pater's opinion. Rabindranath Tagore, a native of India who is  classified as a polymath (he would have been called a Renaissance man if he had been born in a different century), was a remarkable person. He is the first non-European to win a Nobel Prize in Literature, for his poetry. He was also a visual artist and musical composer. Here's what he says"Music is the purest form of art". He lived in the late 1800s to the early 1900s. I wish he and Walter Pater could have gotten together for a conversation. And I wish I could have been there to hear it!

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