Your last line is making an important point. The 20th Century diverged from
the whole prior history of art which was formula bound in mediumistic
terms. Starting in the 20th Century, things that were not previously
considerable as art became so with a vengence. Duchamp and Cage, among many
others, made this possible very early on. Art became what artists said it
was, unbound by previous mediumistic expectations. This refocused art on
new procedures and new materials and new formats that were never part of
art previously. All these things may have existed in the world before, but
they were not considered to be part of art's concerns. Then they were,
purely by artists focusing on them as such and defining them as such, and
relocating them into CONTEXTS in which they had to be considered as such
(the gallery, museum, concert hall, club, etc.)
Thus we explored a whole bunch of truly NEW elements AS ART. I'm saying we
have now explored ALL previously non-art possibilities in this way. A pile
of rocks or foam rubber randomly spread out on a gallery floor is not about
any relationship within it at all, only the one between it's non-art
familiarity and the art context it's in. This kind of defining, elemental
innovation runs rampant throughout the last century. It was the (elemental)
driving force throughout the avant guard. Cage's silence carries no
"relationship" within it but was designed to FORCE the audience to hear
everything and anything happening OUTSIDE the "art" for those four minutes
and thirty three seconds. The ambience of the location this "silence"
occurred in was the "sound" of this piece. It was profoundly elemental in
doing several things at once - removing sound from music, calling attention
to the natural ambience of the "real" world outside music, and drawing
those INDERTERMINATE sounds into the piece as its subject whenever and
wherever it was "played." Did your downloading of 4'33" contain any digital
artifacts at all? What a cool download, I'm proud of you!
This was such a purely intellectual gambit at such an elemental level that
it remains necessarily one of a kind, (there are no different versions of
silence) unrepeatable as art because once it has been done as art, it can
go nowhere new. Like Pollack's barely controled drip paintings, someone
only has to do it once and after that others who follow the procedure will
only end up with a painterly phenomenon virtually the same as Pollac's. You
can use colors he didn't use, "compose" it differently, but if you do use
his procedure, you will still look like a copycat because his elemental
PROCEDURE (using ONLY drips) is determined by gravity as much as the
artist, and overwhelmingly rules the way it looks. Such art acts typify how
NEW elements and elemental procedures WERE the point of much modern art,
not relational aspects among such elements. Zev didn't care what KIND of
sounds the trash cans made, only that they did, and there was a paying
audience to hear it.
This elemental approach has now been exhausted. It is this striving for new
parameters and new elements to add to the whole field of music which is now
impossible. Now there are ONLY relationships. It's an end to a certain kind
of exploration for elements and now only exploring relationships among all
such established elements is possible. Time does this to all explorations.
The periodic table, while not complete, is undoubtedly NEARING completion.
And in the wake of this end to elemental innovation, we also now understand
that art is tied to NOTHING except our ability to see it as such. This is
NOT saying the whole world and everything in it is art! It's saying that
anything MIGHT be art IF an artists points it out and locates it
appropriately for an art consideration. Crazy, isn't it? But true.
Duchamp's found object proved this to be possible, and was his response to
his particular art weary world full of "creative" copying of established
format formulas. Found sound, as soon as it was technologically possible,
occurred in music for the same reason.
>I'm not sure that the concept of "new" even means anything then. Banging on
>garbage cans isn't anything new. I would guess that it was invented very
>shortly after garbage cans were invented. The fact that some one starts or
>ends it by calling it "music" is mere context and not anything new, really.
>It's the same as Duchamp's readymades or John Cage's 4'33" (which,
>amusingly, I downloaded from Napster *because* it seemed like a stupid thing
>to do). Urinals and silence were already there.
>There never was anything elementally new to inter-relate. Sound was here
>before we were. We just discovered something that already existed.
>I suppose that it is possible now (and has been for a while) to create
>sounds that CAN'T exist in the real world but is that new in any meaningful
>way? It's a sound. So what? The genius lies in using it and using it
>means relating it to other sounds and to listeners. I don't think the
>definition of music has changed or will change but I think our ideas of what
>is aesthetically pleasing does.
>One man's music is another man's noise and, in that sense, what is
>*perceived* as music is defined by the listener but what it *intended* as
>music is defined by the musician. The extent to which the two agree may
>drift over time but, again, the experience is defined by the relationship.
>The fact that anyone bangs on garbage cans is not new, but perhaps the fact
>that the musician and listener both agree that it is music might be.
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