Re: [rumori] representation in sight and sound (Artie Burple Crankling)

From: Steev Hise (
Date: Wed Sep 19 2001 - 12:23:58 PDT

Wed, 19 Sep 2001 found Chris Stecker writing:

>> you're saying randomness is a good crutch to replace talent
>> and vision. dont get me wrong, i like to use randomness for,
>Yep. In my case, it is, certainly. I am not a Musician nor am I a Composer.
>I'm just a reg'lar guy. I put my ear to what I hear, and try once in a while
>That troubles me, but I really don't know a way out of
>the problem, short of quitting the whole art thing and leaving it to the

everyone is an artist. i think you're selling short yourself
and the whole species to make this old distinction between
"artists" and "regular people". everyone has talent, and
everyone has something to say, but you have to put work into
it. claiming that you're talentless and that this justifies
laziness via random meaninglessness, that's not good.

>So, the fundamental difference between the representational capability of
>music and visual art--and I agree that there is one--lies not in a
>fundamental limit of music, but either in our willingness to accept
>non-visual or non-spatial representations or in our limited ability to
>produced musical structures of adequate complexity or realism.

spoken like a true psychoacoustician.

>think the main difficulty right now is the latter, the lack of adequate

no matter what the tools, you'll never be able to write an
instrumental music piece (without lyrics or samples) that
directly depicts, without ambiguity to un-aided humans, a,
for example, particular person, or, a particular building,
or certain event.

try it. anybody. i dare you.

>or emotional photograph, it seems most often the case that the source of its
>power is the subject, not the photography itself. Had a lesser photographer
>not captured the image at just the right time, in just the right light, it
>may have been weaker, but the role of the photographer is not the same as
>that of a painter, who brings interest to the work through her painting
>style, rather than (necessarily) her selection of a subject.

this is the dilemma that brought about abstract
expressionism in the early part of the 20th century. it's
also the fallacy that kept photography from being accepted
as a "real" art form for many many years.

>If sampling=photography, then it seems that instrumental music=painting. The
>ability to represent is hindered by the simplicity of the artwork's basic
>unit: a brush stroke or a note, say. But that simplicity also provides a
>great deal of flexibility: paintings can be as realistic
>or abstract as need be, and I would argue that
>instrumental music can be as well. In the extreme

your analogy is telling. no amount of notes will ever equal
a portrait of a recognizable face, for instance.

the whole idea behind Abstract painting was that the work
was about the media itself. painting came to be about
brushstrokes, and thickness of paint, and texture of the
gesso and canvas, and then with Pollack, the shapes of
the splatters, etc etc. the abstractionists were purposely
rebelling against representation, at least in part because
of photography.

>adequate. Sampling reflects just one of a new set of brushes suitable for
>making representational sound art.

that was similar to my point. but i would say that
sample-based composition turns music into something that's
not really music anymore. just as photography isnt called
painting, representational sound art probably shouldnt be
called music. IMHO.

>As a final point to end this part of the discussion, this is a great point.
>Lyrics are different from music. They aren't "writing" though, they are

true. tho the distinction is small for our purposes.

> I've left lyrics out of the discussion above, because,like Steev,
>I'm primarily interested in instrumental music. But keep in mind that a huge

for the purposes of this discussion. i love pop songs with
good lyrics though...

>proportion of (especially popular) music contains lyrics. In the context of
>the discussion above, note that speech is not the same as sound, and the
>primary dimension of speech is lingustic, not spectral or spatial.

as with writing.

>> that abstraction is equivaent to masturbation? on the
>> contrary, my aim is to get better and better at getting
>> further and further from abstraction.
>Although my point above is that music is quite capable in principle of
>representation, I still like abstract art, for the reasons described in
>earlier emails. Come to think of it, I like masturbation too. Reproduction
>is great (I have a wonderful infant son to prove it), but is it the "purpose"
>of sex to make babies? Is sex without reproduction meaningless?
>If abstraction is to representation what masturbation is to reproduction,
>what's the artistic equivalent of recreational (or even just
>non-reproductive) sex?

well, what i get out of the original Momus quote is a
metaphor. I like masturbation too, and i don't plan on
reproducing, but metaphorically, what we're talking about is
the different between meaningless pleasure, and something
that has an end product or purposeful result.

(i may have already posted this, but everyone interested
in this whole "form vs. content" topic, and the Momus
quote should read the essay where it appears:

abstraction is about pleasure, the pleasure of the medium.
the pure enjoyment of the form. this is fine, my whole point
is just that there's more to life than the pure pursuit of
pleasure. or at least more to some people's lives. at some
point you want to communicate something more specific with
another human, or many humans. for that you need


Steev Hise, Syssy Admin
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*Watching power flow:
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