The Arts (Art)

by dhw, Thursday, August 28, 2008, 19:42 (5515 days ago) @ Carl

Carl wrote: "Language and music must have grown from the same source, animal calls. Calling is used for normal communication, for territory marking and for mating. All of these contribute to natural selection." - David wrote: "...the Darwin approach would have to reason that Beethoven's talent was necessary for our survival." - Earlier Carl wrote: "Exactly what neural networks are being tapped and why they work is beyond my knowledge however, and that is probably the question you are asking." - It is indeed. The fact that music itself has evolved is clear, and if it didn't have the effect that it does, it wouldn't survive. But although it's easy to see why flight, hearing, language, eyesight etc. should convey advantages, there's no advantage to be gained from a pleasing collection of sounds. I find the mating link hard to swallow (except in the realm of musicals and opera, where the handsome [fat?] tenor woos the gorgeous [wobbly?] soprano!), but in any case that's not what I'm concerned with. People don't write symphonies in order to attract a mate ... except possibly Berlioz in his pursuit of Harriet Smithson. We know that music can be used for therapeutic, religious, martial, romantic purposes etc., as you say, but the question is how can pure sound (let's forget about music with words) create such effects? - Carl says that "some species seem to make noise just for the pure joy of it", which gives us an aesthetic link to other animals, but has this ever been proved? We need the input of a zoologist here. I was interested in BBella's ideas on vibration, which fit in with the extraordinary story of Evelyn Glennie, who as a deaf percussionist apparently senses the music through its vibrations. Beethoven himself went deaf, of course, and never even heard some of his greatest works except in his head. Nor for that matter did Schubert, although for different reasons. Composers, performers and listeners all link up to this extraordinary world of meaningless sound, all agree that it has a certain effect on them (albeit one that varies according to the individual), and yet no-one can explain why. Nor can they explain why ideas, forms, themes come into someone's mind. Music and the other arts satisfy our aesthetic sense; they emanate from and appeal to what we like to call the subconscious. (Automatism and to a degree Surrealism actually made art out of precisely this mystery.) But the fact that we have found linguistic terms to designate these regions of ourselves does not provide an explanation. If an idea has a practical or tangible connection, the source may be obvious, but for many artists the origin of ideas is as mysterious as the impact of their work. Michelangelo once said that the statue was already in the marble. His task was to find it. As I've pointed out earlier, not all artists/composers are religious, and I certainly wouldn't want to read any sort of divine inspiration into the mystery. But it is a mystery, and it would be a bold man who claimed that it can all be explained in physical terms. If not physical, then what?

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