Saturday, November 26, 2011

Break out of "authorized responses"

Browsing MIT's Open Courseware, I found this 15-page essay by contemporary Italian author Umberto Eco (Name of the Rose) on modern music.

Key concepts:
  1. Contemporary analysis may focus on what drove artists to call on performers and audience to make constructive decisions about aleatoric performance.
  2. Following the Enlightenment, fascination with the evocative power of suggestive art led to contemporary use of symbols without objective keys and provoking questioning of existing values and institutions. (pp 5-6)
  3. This shift of value from the author's singular reality to a plurality of possible audience experiences rejects "any ideal normative conception of the world" -- likened to Copernicus's challenge to the Aristotelian legacy.
I'm not sure the parallel between openness in art (specifically, music that doesn't follow Classical tonal structure) and contemporary physics is any more than metaphorical. Theoretical science can get pretty outlandish by itself. But! I do get that as scientists have revealed and explored concepts such as Heisenburg uncertainty and artists, the I Ching to their audiences, outlandish concepts such as every conscious being a world unto themself have become household. My work tends increasingly to celebrate the capacity of individuals to create, recreate, and transform realities. 

It's easy to indulge in dramatizing the 20th century's bent "toward the ambiguous and the indeterminate" as a decay in crisis or chaos. I agree with the counterargument that it is, rather, a social development, driven by growing cultural, economic, and political empowerment, to actualize the creative and transformative power individuals inherently possess. The essay instead presents an alternative analogy: a universe (literally turned into one) in which chance and discontinuity perfectly follow an absolute rule -- untestable, undefinable, divine. In it, any work of art opens up to the perceiver's potentials while simultaneously belonging to the artist and obeying her rule.

It breaks down after that, but you don't have to take my word for it. 

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