Wednesday, June 13, 2007


There is no totally right or wrong relationship.

As you listen to music, with whom or what are you relating? Can you be touched?

Shut your eyes and ears for a brief time of silence, and try to discover who you wouldn't be in mental communication with, if there could be found one solitary moment when you'd not be in contact with some object. Because you may find something rather interesting: that even as you attempt to focus on something inanimate you cannot at all remove it from associations of life, perhaps of a person who created it, who placed it there, who touched it, who spoke about it, who looked at it.

If, as artists, we wish to exchange our feelings or our thoughts with a person, we must offer something you and I have experienced. Real communion is so much more magical than imitations of it - the simple desire to be merely effective cannot be allowed to cloak this relationship, this communion, this truth.


dystonia ek said...

Interesting observations. Of course, the point you raise in your last paragraph has been central to arguments against art-making in general (specifically the gap between direct and mediated experience,see Zerzan, et. al)

The difficulty as I see it is this: how do we know we're really 'exchanging' anything? It's easy to feel like you are (as both 'transmitter' and 'receiver'), but might it not also boil down to wishful thinking at least some of the time? I suppose if you give someone a painting or recording and after spending some time with it they come back to you with thoughts and feelings that closely follow those you experienced in creating the work, then that's a sort of test, but does it really ever happen on anything more than a superficial level? Where does 'superficiality' end?. Or, taking it a few orders of mag further, who is it that 'experiences' this 'communion'? Is there anyone really 'there' to have a 'relationship' with (including 'ourselves')?

If and when this sort of communion 'works', I suspect it bypasses conscious associations and stirs something older than all that neocortical business that we tend to mix our identity up with.

Anyway, just riffing, here... there are some very large question marks in your very short post.

William Bennett said...

I see the last paragraph as an extension of the concept of 'forcing the truth' which I discussed previously, and is what I'm referring to with the use of the word 'real'. To me, it is indeed a very rare thing, because so many attempts at achieving communion are merely what I would describe as technical exercises, so typical in acting or music, for example.

The moments 'it' actually happens, when normality is transcended, are magical as much for their scarcity as for their astonishingly uplifiting power.

flora_mundi said...

whether you see them as the actions of the irrational mind or as something more mysterious, i don't think you can argue that these moments do occur and mark us in ways that can't easily be expressed in language.

at its best, music and art can simply reach through more conscious communication and stir a sense of recognition, of identification.

Luke McElroy said...

I guess it's like a conversation - you can have a 'technically' good, interesting conversation where you say the 'right' things but end up feeling quite empty, or there are rarer, more charged conversations you can have (which may not even involve much talk) where there's a sharing of something special.

I've experienced both of these conversations in art too, but films and books seem to offer shared experiences more than music. Maybe because most music simply isn't aiming to do that, and even when it seems to try it sounds like someone's unengaging fantasies. Now comparing that to a Cassavetes film...

William Bennett said...

I totally agree with that, Luke, and love your final example!

dystonia ek said...

Luke - well put.

It really seems, in these narcissistic times in which we live, that the purpose of most music is as far from 'shared experiences' as one could imagine (unless 'strumming three chords and slumming around in skinny trousers and an angular haircut trying to get laid/collect chicks on Myspace' counts).

Ironically, there are certainly conventional mainstream incidences of 'shared experiences' involving music but rarely linked to anything like the content of the music (raves, mosh pits, etc certainly appear to involve ego-loss and collective experience on the part of the audience, but at such moments no-one is having a 'conversation' with the artist, so I guess that's a class apart)

William - I see more clearly where you're coming from now that you've given a little more context.