3 ago. 2009

This goes beyond teh stupid. Lets look at these criteria for a moment.
To count as Art Music, a work must meet ALL* the following criteria:

It must be written for acoustic instruments and/or unamplified voices (Mechanical and electr(on)ic devices may be employed for textural effect, but not as the main 'instrument'. Technical amplification, for recording purposes or to enhance performances in arenas of poor acoustics, are not part of the composer's effects or intention, and are not counted.)

It must be the original work of a single author (Texts notwithstanding. If a composer dies before finishing a work, its completion by another composer, if based on detailed notes left by the dead composer, may be considered a kind of 'amalgam' art work.)

It must be preserved and transmitted as a score, written in orthodox musical notation, alterable only by the composer (If the composer dies before completion, elaboration of the score may be made by another composer, though only of the dead composer's notes. 'Orthodox' means readily intelligible to professional and proficient amateur musicians.)

It must acknowledge, build on or work from a musical heritage based on structure and tonality and its precursors

It must be conceived for performance according to the instructions and faithful to the intent of the composer (Performers should follow the score precisely, in as much detail as the composer provides; improvisations and ornamentations are permitted where the composer allows or expects, according to practice or tradition.)

It must be musically and intellectually complex, coherent and sophisticated (i.e. display and encode, in various permutations, articulation, originality, discursiveness, subtlety, intricacy, novelty, contrast, suspense, symbolism, logic, humour, passion etc through the use, in various combinations, of advanced harmony, modulation, variation, variance of musical phrase length and metre, periodicity, through-composition, counterpoint, polyphony etc.)

It will therefore:

Require a high level of musicianship (concentration, insight, accomplishment) on the part of performers, who must draw on musical education, personal experience and imagination, knowledge of a work's idiom, and the accumulated body of historical performance practices (even for a merely competent performance)

Require relatively high levels of concentration, understanding and competence from listeners for non-superficial appreciation and comprehension

Be susceptible to detailed musicological (formal) analysis

It must aspire (i.e. be the composer's intention) to provide the listener with emotional and intellectual enjoyment and satisfaction through musical complexity, sophistication and coherence (as above), and thereby communicate exceptional and/or transcendent reflections on the human condition

* For argument's sake, a work not satisfying one of these conditions may also be considered Art Music, especially if a majority of other works by the same composer do. This exception allows the inclusion particularly of pieces of music that would otherwise be excluded primarily on the basis of their shortness.

Let us utterly dismantle the reasoning here:

(1) What is there inherent to acoustic instruments that makes them more artistic? I might prefer that Bob Crenshaw play the acoustic bass when accompanying Sonny Rollins, but he plays an electric one. So what?

(2) Do the notes care how many people wrote them? In other words, what is there about the absence of collaboration that makes music more artistic? What if Mozart and Haydn had collaborated on a piece? Wouldn't you just have to judge the piece on its own merits?

(3) The third criterion has to do with notation. Suppose I go to a concert and enjoy the music. Later, I find out that the scores were not "orthodox." So I ought to revoke my view of the music as artistic? In principle, I can notate music after the fact, such as in a transcription of music not originally written out. The notational status of the music has no necessary bearing on how "artistic" it is.

(4) Most music has some "tonality" and "structure" and "precursors." This criterion is hopeslessly vague. I suppose it is designed to exclude certain kinds of atonality or music based on ambient soundscapes.

(5) Hopelessly vague again. Most music is "conceived for performance" according to certain "instructions" or at least expectations. If the performers don't carry out the intentions of the composer, it might be judged an inadequate performance.

(6) This criterion is a laundry list of things that artistic music might contain to make it complex, ambitious enough, etc... The list seems at once too narrow and too broad, since it is unclear whether these are just examples of things that make a piece of music "artistic" or requisite elements. The footnote basically destroys this criterion anyway, because a classical composer who writes a simpler piece still gets credit for it.

(7) Artistic music will be hard to play. This seems to confuse the intrinsic artistic quality of the music with issues of performance. It's hard to play guitar like Eric Clapton too, so any kind of music involving performance at all will satisfy this criterion, I think.

(8) Hard to listen to? Of course, my appreciation of Clapton's guitar might be every bit as superficial as my appreciation of Yo Yo Ma playing Bach. In either case, I could be a more competent listener and hence achieve a less superficial appreciation. I could have Stan Getz or Mozart on as background music, because either one sounds pleasant, or else devote my full attention to either one.

(9) Ready for the musicologist's scalpel? Isn't that putting the cart before the horse? If the musicologist doesn't have the tools to analyze it s/he should acquire them.

(10) I suppose the final question-begging escape clause in the footnote is designed to let in a shorter Schubert song, for example, with the excuse that Schubert wrote other, more complex and longer works with more modulations, more complex structures, etc... So the artistic value of that song would depend on the existence of other works outside of itself? These people don't know how to think.

The purpose of this list presumably is to separate traditional "classical" music in the European tradition from various kinds of pop, jazz, "postclassical" forms of minimalism and chance, electronic music, etc... not to mention entire traditions of music outside the Western world. The mixture of overly broad and overly specific criteria make such a list entirely incoherent. It is clear that it is not based on any underlying idea of "ART" at all, but on a series of characteristics and conventions that this particular variety of Western Art music already possesses. The reasoning is entirely circular, in other words.

2 comentarios:

Andrew Shields dijo...

If I had more time and energy these days, I might try to write a parody of this to distinguish "Art Poetry" from "Poetry."

Vance Maverick dijo...

The site is really amazingly lame. I think I saw it linked from the Guardian.

It is a curious fact that there's little collaboration in classical composition. There are various examples of arrangement verging on rewrites (Liszt doing piano versions of everything, Ravel doing Mussorgsky, Stravinsky on Pergolesi) and of course the variation form (though generally these take just the rough tune and changes from the original). I suspect the fact is meaningful, and gets at something important about the tradition -- which is not, at all, to say it serves to distinguish art from non-art.

Captcha: fides, my fidelity to the purity of the artistic tradition