[PD] Am I alone?

Jonathan Wilkes jancsika at yahoo.com
Sun Mar 20 01:28:22 CET 2011

--- On Sat, 3/19/11, Mathieu Bouchard <matju at artengine.ca> wrote:

> From: Mathieu Bouchard <matju at artengine.ca>
> Subject: Re: [PD] Am I alone?
> To: "ailo" <ailo.at at gmail.com>
> Cc: pd-list at iem.at
> Date: Saturday, March 19, 2011, 11:27 PM
> sorry, my following reply sat a long time in my email
> account.
> On Sun, 30 Jan 2011, ailo wrote:
> > I guess what I meant was, can we define music
> generally so that everyone can agree on what is the
> definition of music?
> Well, if «everyone» also includes those people who
> purposefully want you to fail at coming up with a unanimous
> definition, you can't. There are also those who just won't
> listen to you because they are busy preparing the answer
> « it can't be defined. period. » without any explanation
> (they don't enjoy explanations any more than definitions,
> anyway).
> > I know I can generalize for myself, but I think I
> can't do it for
> > everyone else.
> There are also problems of common meaning of the words,
> whereby people will accidentally agree or disagree because
> they have different impressions about what you mean with the
> words that you used for writing the definition.
> > I suppose people like to avoid it mostly because it
> can discourage
> > people to do their own thing.
> I would rather bet on this phenomenon :
>   http://www.google.ca/search?q=%22art+can%27t+be+explained%22
> Which is more of the mystical mindframe of non-explanations
> and epistemological hopelessness.
> By extension, the word « art » is often used to mean
> whatever skill is considered unexplainable or mysterious.
> > If we need to do it for a specific practical purpose,
> then we have no
> > choice.
> A definition of art needs not dictate a single purpose, and
> a single purpose does not dictate a single approach, and a
> single approach does not dictate a single outcome. When you
> acknowledge a definition of art that just tries to be
> vaguely universal, you still have plenty of decisions to
> make.
> A definition of art needs not to be dumb like « music is
> whatever Beethoven was doing and that can't be done anymore
> because he died » or « we play both kinds of music :
> Country and Western ».

The idea of music as art is certainly not universal.

> > Words like beauty and ugliness are commonly used. When
> we say, I like ugly things, does that make these things
> wrong? [...]

It can if that's part of your morality that you accept (tacitly or not).  
If you also accept that the concept of music as art is not universal, this 
is trivial.  If on the other hand you have some vague universal view of 
art, you're probably going need to fill pages and pages of some vague 
paper explaining how people you've never met who share none of your 
aesthetic/cultural/social views are, on some vague abstract level, 
actually adhering to the same vague artistic universal as you.

If you want a shortcut, take the Modernist approach--  you just 
completely disregard the aesthetic/cultural/social context in which the 
"art" is made, reimagine the "art" as a self-contained, closed "work", 
and just assume that every "artist" in the world is either another 
modernist or some primitive outgrowth of a particular process that can be 
data mined to add a new layer of complexity to a future modernist 


> (I didn't know what to reply to the rest of your email.)
> _______________________________________________________________________
> | Mathieu Bouchard ---- tél: +1.514.383.3801 ----
> Villeray, Montréal, QC
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