Philosophy of the Arts


The paradigm of art creation

The model for thinking about the creation of art that we shall be talking about in the next weeks, is this:
the artist sees himself or herself confronted with ‘inert’ material, i.e. material that ‘merely exists’ and does not carry any artistic meaning yet. An artist confronts the challenge of making something artistically meaningful with this material.

We talked about John Cage’s 4′ 33′ as an example of this. He felt that somehow everyday sounds are as valuable as the sounds an orchestra produces, but felt, too, confronted with the task of expressing this, of producing a work that makes an audience realize the value of everyday sound. It is one thing to say that all sounds are interesting and important, it is quite another to make people believe what you are saying. In 4′ 33′ Cage used the framework of our musical art form to convey his point.
You may wonder: “Surely, the notes in a Beethoven score are not ‘just material’?” But, are you sure about this? We can cut up this situation to identify particular moments where the model described above seems to hold nonetheless.

…Surely, the notes ina Beethoven score are not ‘just material’?…

1. A score consists of black marks on sheets of paper. These marks derive their meaning from the conventional system of music notation, but the conventional system of itself did not produce the score, did it? It was the composer who saw himself confronted with a conventional system (his material), having to find his way in it, and bringing its elements into life, getting it to come to life.
2. A performer holds a score in one hand and an instrument in the other. He of she shall have to be able (i) the read notation (bring the marks on the sheets of paper to life in his or her imagination), and 2. to translate them into sounds emanating from the instrument. 3. On top of these techniques which may be taught, he or she wil have to produce a sound structure, and bring it to life.

In conclusion: let us think for the sake of the argument (if not for its appropriateness) of the above model as the paradigm of artistic creativity.

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