Wednesday, January 23, 2008

They often don't know what to say about their art

WHY WRITE? Kris Tiner
This is where the well-informed critic or historian usually steps in to correct the balance of information, and thank goodness for them. But at some point we have to let the artists speak for themselves.
Historically we are at a point where information is so rapidly and easily exchanged that artists can no longer afford not to speak for themselves, and students, educators, and critics of the music can't afford not to listen. The field is so exceedingly diverse and the technology is so exceedingly simple to make the kind of idea-sharing and community building that's only been dreamed of in the past a definite and immediate reality. Imagine if Rothko or Charlie Parker had a blog, if Anthony Braxton had posted his Tri-Axium writings on a website instead of printing them in a prohibitively limited (and costly) edition, if Charles Ives hadn't had to wait patiently for the publication of his music - what if he could have recorded it himself and distributed it freely over the internet?
There are so many ideas whose importance has been overshadowed only by their obscurity. Posted by Kris Tiner at 2:57 PM Labels: , 4 comments:
James Sproul said...
wow, brilliantly put as always. Sifting through the many ideas one strikes me as interesting. The artist that owns up to the responsibility of sharing their ideas about their art, do they also have a responsibility to share their ideas about their art form in general (this may or may not include talking about other artists). I think you are on that road, and I think it is a fantastic path to take. especially given, like you say, the speed at which we are able to communicate and even discuss (blog) about our ideas, and perhaps even argue our differing points of view. I have often heard people (mostly composers) say they don't want to explain their work in program notes or talking, they want the music to speak for itself.
I think this is just an excuse because they often don't know what to say about their art. Which is a little silly in my mind. I don't talk much about my work, but that is just because I don't like talking in front of people. so I write weird program notes. And often times I feel bad because I often can't express myself adequately enough to feel like I did it right, but that only comes with practice. I feel like it shouldn't be that difficult to explain your art-form (assuming one thinks about their art-form). I really dig your ideas on the difference between self-interpretation and self-representation. Someone doesn't have to explain their piece to where someone will listen to it and say "oh yes, that IS what I hear".
I don't think that is necessary, and many composers go to great lengths to explain to people who great their piece is, but I think there does need to be some expression (or to use your idea, representation) about what you believe and how that belief has been integrated into this particular piece. Which i think still allows an audience member to have a totally original experience for themselves with the music that is happening. I think this is more difficult in music that has no improvisation as it is a much more static situation and people tend to want to hear the story behind the piece (or often just the title). Anyhow, fantastic paper/blog, I truly enjoyed reading it. I think you are on to some really interesting ideas about how artists should, or can, express themselves.oh, if Ives only had a blog!!!! January 21, 2008 5:23 PM
Kris Tiner said...
Thanks! And I should clarify, in terms of the interpretation v. representation issue, I am talking about the artist's expression of "ideas about art", worldviews, systems, methods, things like that and not programs, or the kind of thing where you might say "this sound represents a waterfall here" or whatever. That, to me, is going a bit too far and we could just as easily get into a discussion of when does the composer cross the line and start trying to do the job of interpreting for the listener. Maybe we will.
When it comes to program music as such, I tend (once again) to side with Ives, asking (in the Prologue to Essays Before A Sonata):“How far is anyone justified, be he an authority or a layman, in expressing or trying to express in terms of music…the value of anything, material, moral, intellectual, or spiritual, which is usually expressed in terms other than music?”
In fact, this is as good a reason as any to write (and likely a self-justification of Ives' own writings) -- to say in words all that the music can't express or isn't saying on its own. When we try to explain what the music is saying that's where we cross the line and get into self-interpretation. January 21, 2008 8:33 PM
James Sproul said...
ah, thanks for clarifying, that is what I was thinking about. I think it is also of a certain responsibility, or maybe just an unwritten "hey, you should do this" but in expressing their views it should be more inclusive than just "composition is this" or what have you. I hold a firm belief in allowing all art-forms to converge in ones life, and allow those things to influence your decisions about your specific art-form, allow that poet to affect your art, or that painter, or even a specific painting or even philosopher (as I believe you have done to great extent with say, Ken Wilbur). They are going to influence it anyway just by having the experience, you might as well embrace it and allow it be as rich of an influence as possible. I believe, at least for myself, that is the only way to gain a richness in your personal art. I really like Ives' ideas on interpretation. Program notes, to me, and this is how I write mine, should express what the music won't. Often this constitutes technical things for most people, I try to leave as much of that stuff out as possible, unless there is just something that I used that they really should have at least basic knowledge of.
But often times I use program notes to express things that perhaps surrounded the piece during its conception and writing, that didn't necessarily go into the piece specifically, but did have influence, perhaps on my mood, or what-not, during. I find it interesting to understand what was going on during a writing of a particular piece in that persons life (or painting, or novel etc...). I find it often lends itself to an interesting point of view for me to experience and interpret what I am hearing. That can have a tendency to leak into crossing that line. so often people write six paragraph program notes about the piece and it's minutest details that are so unnecessary to the experience, but are there to show how "clever" the composer was. I don't like that. And it is interesting when the audience wants that interpretation done for them, they want the ENTIRE story of what is happening, mostly because they are perhaps lazy and don't want to do the work, or perhaps just uneducated about what you are doing (not implying stupidity, just not acquainted with that particular brand of whatever it is you are doing). What do we do as artists when they want that explanation?
I often refer them to the program notes, but that doesn't satisfy them, and if you say something aloof you sound like a pretentious jerk. it is a fine line. But I agree that the expression is not the expression of this piece or that one. It is the expression of the artist as a whole (their artist self, religious self perhaps, maybe even father-self) and through this self-expression have that original experience and interpretation instead of asking for it outright, which is much more satisfying. I had a lot of that experience in grad school, of people wanting to know what this meant or that etc... I honestly didn't know what to tell them. I just explained what I think about, perhaps a technique or something, but as far as interpretation, I had no idea what to say, because what the piece really means is something that is quite inexpressible for me. I could never explain what that piece means, nor do I try or hope to be able to. January 21, 2008 10:05 PM
James Sproul said...
one more thought. So if all this is sort of justifying writing about writing, doesn't this lead into a comparison of why we create in the first place. To express... something? Doesn't the representation of ones self through the music also carry over into the representation by the written word? Although simply expressing the same entity through different means, or perhaps different views of the same rock that sort of thing? Surely we get as much out of Ives from his music as his writing. Should we not examine both and examine him as an artist with all of it in mind? Are they not all artistic expressions? So in answer to the initial question "Why Write?" perhaps we write because we "compose" (because the phrase "we write because we write" seemed a little... ), they are essentially fulfilling similar needs within ourselves. the expression, or representation and we do it in whatever way we can. January 21, 2008 10:53 PM

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