16 July 2009

Limits and all

Although my glance was so very cursory that I only marked the title, On an Overgrown Path has a new post bearing the legend:

      The only limits are those set by the musicians

Keeping in mind that almost anything one says about the arts is not any immutable law, but has play within a field of contextI found myself immediately enamored of this sentiment.

Having said that, some of the applicability I find in the remark:

1. The composer explores his own limits. The composer gets nowhere, if he submits to what some portion of the audience insists are The Artistic Limits.

2. The performers serve as both practical and artistic limiters. The composer gets nowhere if he makes impossible demands. (He also gets no particular where fast, by making technical demands exceeding the players who place themselves at his disposal.) Ideally, the composer and the performer(s) form a kind of artistic collaborative; the performers dont necessarily have veto rights, but their artistic sympathy is important feedback for the composer.

3. The limits of 200 years ago are not the limits of 100 years ago; nor do the limits of 100 years ago hold any power over today. The limits change with time; and that is a function of the composer determining what the limits may be.

The following comment comes from a discussion forum (I do not see the source):

      I fundamentally reject purposeful incoherence as guiding principle in music/literature/art. You can’t create advanced forms that way.

      Purposeful incoherence creates a false (and intimidating) perception that there is a super-audience who will have a coherent experience. That is a lie. There is no coherence in purposeful incoherence. But there is the useful illusion of the super-audience.

      The inspired insanities, improvisational flights of bizarre activity, ecstatic incoherences are different than purposeful incoherences. Purposeful incoherence steals the glory from the inspired and purposeless insane.

Some wild stuff in there (gentleman in the back cries, Ill have some of what hes smoking!) so I am in no position to say whether I agree or not. Offhand, I dont recall any coercion to perceive that there is a super-audience who may have a coherent experience of music which I did not completely comprehend. But I may have been inattentive.

It may be that I have simply been sheltered from their society, but if there be composers who purpose incoherence, I have not had occasion to meet them. (I suppose one might assert the Wildean, There are good composers, and there are poor composers; that is all.) To complain of purposeful incoherence (at least with regard to the composers whose work I know, which work tends to resist immediate and ready assimilation) seems to me to impute bad motivation to the composers. Where I am inclined to believe (in the case of such composers who do their work right) that the coherence of the music may need to be caught up with.

Put another way (and to echo an earlier remark): I havent known any composers who write, with the intention that their music should not be understood. But I have known many listeners who were frustrated by music which did not yield readily to expectations, and who find the fault in the art, and in the artist.

I am sure I have nodded to Jaya before for the Sylvia Townsend Warner quote: She was not entertained, so she blamed the entertainment.

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