A few years ago, I had a college pal who was an evangelizing devotee of the abstract painter Marc Rothko. I keep in mind her gushing over a catalog of Rothko’s work, while I used to be thinking that I must be aesthetically challenged; I just didn’t „get“ it. After all, most of the paintings were nothing but giant rectangles of color, with slight irregularities and a contrasting border or stripe. All the acquainted reference points of line and shape, perspective and shadow, had been gone. I might appreciate them as „design,“ however not as „art.“ While they had been pleasing sufficient, I could not see why anybody would rhapsodize over these abstractions… till I first noticed them for myself in individual–a completely different experience! Once I encountered them on the Museum of Modern Artwork, they actually stopped me in my tracks, subverting acutely aware thought and plunging me immediately into an altered state. They weren’t just flat canvases on a wall, however appeared more like living things, pulsing and throbbing in resonance to a wavelength that had a elementary connection to the Supply of things. I used to be stunned. They did not „categorical“ a sense–they were more like feelings themselves, they usually seemed like nothing personal to me, or Rothko, or anyone. When I later appeared at the reproductions Rothko’s works in books, they reverted to flat swatches of color. There was a recollection, however no recreation of my experience. This was an expertise that relied on the presence of the original artifact (artwork: a reality).
A Tune is Not a Tone
I spent my early musical life working mostly with music that used-like representational art–some set of familiar musical conventions to create its effect. There are numerous vocabularies of melody, counterpoint, rhythm, harmony, and structure that place music in a context of kind that makes it comprehensible to listeners. „Comprehensible“ will not be precisely what I mean–it means that music communicates only intellectual ideas, whereas in truth, it conveys and expresses an entire range of ideas, emotions, sensations and associations. But there is an element of „intelligibility“ to conventional types of music that depends on a shared formal vocabulary of expression. There are familiar components that listeners use to anchor their real-time expertise of a composition, formal or sonic components which might be borrowed from other pieces created and listened to in the past. Once I discover myself buzzing a tune from a Beethoven symphony, or invoking one in all its attribute rhythms (dit-dit-dit-DAH), I reduce a complex sonic tapestry to an abstraction, a shorthand that is simply recognizable to others acquainted with the music. I may be able to share a musical thought with different musicians using the abstraction of notation. But a „tune“ shouldn’t be a „tone,“ and a „note“ shouldn’t be a „sound.“ It is an concept, even a powerful thought, however after I find myself buzzing the tune, I do know that I have in a roundabout way „consumed“ the music, reduced it to a subset of its conventions, deconstructed and reconstructed it for my own purposes.
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