2014/08/26 § Leave a comment
I have been reading The Aesthetic brain : how we evolved to desire beauty and enjoy art by Anjan Chatterjee.
Key message is that the diversity of form is directly related to environmental and selective pressures.
Where there is strong selective evolutionary pressure then, as an example, birdsong will be as unchanging as Egyptian art over millennia. Or, when there is strongly repressive government then art will be restricted to pro-government propaganda i approved form and genre, and as unchanging as the wild birdsong.
Where conditions relax then there can be a survival in a diversity of form, as in the diverse songs of domesticated songbirds compared to their wild cousins.
The middle bit of the book surveys the recent writing in neuroaesthetics and a number of evolutionary arguments about “why art?”. Unsatisfied by the answers involving “art instinct” or “by-product” he argues for a third way involving that relaxation of selective pressures mentioned above.
I still feel Ellen Dissanayake‘s work is the best of “why art” in a evolutionary context, and I can see it fitting in with Anjan Chatterjee’s suggestions of relaxation to allow the diversity we see through time and across geographies. Both are at base material arguments, one for raising children, one for how they, and we, survive.
Suggestions of relaxed environments, if not attitudes, will probably work for any Dissanayake’s “making special” activities covered by other modern words like ‘religion’.
“Art” after all is primarily a marketing category, a very modern form. And perhaps one not relaxed enough yet to be any good. Especially all that conceptual art that just looks like bad science fiction made for people who do not read science fiction.
2013/03/11 § 1 Comment
Following on from Formats and Genres being Rituals I’m now reading David Byrne in How Music Works, where he states, in contrast to the lone genius coming up with some expressive creative outpouring, that:
I believe that we unconsciously and instinctively make work to fit preexisting formats.
He then begins to support this claim with a description of how the context of a performance influences how it is listened too, or rather, if it cannot be heard, if it doesn’t work acoustically, then it will not get performed. (This is basically the opening of the book and it’s all I’ve read so far).
I.E. that the formats we instinctively write for are determined by the contexts in which the formats are themselves created (as socially and economically constructed in other words).
That the acoustic environment of the places where we choose to attend to music influences the style, the format of the music, which we then subsequently associate with a particular type of music. (No doubt this attention to the acoustic environment is just the opening of what ‘context’ means in this book.)
This means that what is perceived as religious music will depend on the environment in which we attend religious rites and services. Complex rhythmic spirituals developed when dancing and chanting in a forest clearing will not work in cavernous cathedrals, but simple slower changing music will cope with, if not incorporate, the reverb.
Now having attempted to create a couple of formats (Compositional Poetry and the Unnsonnet) it occurs to me that to get them work I have to find or make the right space fo them. Or find an unused space and adapt my multi-voice pieces to them.
Everything leads back to marketing, as the context of context, the meta-context of both our creative and ritualistic impulses. I don’t think it possible for a lone genius to ever do that alone.
I’ll just have to wait to be picked up after I’m dead. Even if I had the natural skills to be a marketeer, I do not have the interest. So I’ll just put it out there on the internet and see what happens.
If something really is a new format it is very hard to describe. (Let alone promote. If it was about cats or pets generally of course it would meme-ify and promote itself.)
Compositional Poetry is a form of read-together poetry written in a number of voices and is performed much like a musical score, where the voices speak their lines according to their responsibilities, not in chorus, not in soliloquy, not taking turns, but all of these and none. Each voice is thus not a character as a role in a play or opera, though characters may appear of their own volition. Stories may emerge of their own inclination.
Currently I am writing a new compositional poem. Working title “MAKE”. I do one every ten years or so.