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April 19, 2005

A Poll - (post)modernism.

Ok here's a poll. But first some background info.

Shostakovich was considered a modern composer (though many would argue he lived in a postmodern age).
A quote from Testimony: "There are no general, standardized rules of conduct. Everything depends on the situation and on the person. A turn of events is possible in which murder is not a crime. You can't approach everything with the same measure."
This is a very postmodern idea.

1) Does being modern composer imply being a modernist?
2) Is there a rift concerning intellectual ideologies between the art world and the philosophic world?
3) Am I missing something?

PLEASE post comments! I can not currently reconcile this.

Posted by pedalboy at April 19, 2005 11:18 PM | TrackBack

1. based on the definition of "does being (insert word) imply being (insert word)ism" i would say no. does being feminine imply being a feminist? unfortunately and greivously no. i'm not very informed about modernism though.

2. yes. there is an ideological rift between the philosophic world and everything else. as john has so ardently been saying lately, what use is philosophy if it doesn't tell you how to live? i think there is possibly more of a rift then there could be, although possibly not should be. let's refer back to my blog comments, shall we? if art is indeed a worthwhile dialogue then it darn better have a different ideology. but from your quote i can't really see what the difference is. some nice relativism going on...

3.maybe, but i must be missing the same thing. i wish someone else would say something so i could respond and not have to waste the few precious conscious brain cells i have left. thank you. good night.

Posted by: kate... at April 20, 2005 1:33 AM

i've thought recently about the whole art and philosophy thing. i used to think they were more closely tied than i do now. my mind likes to go both ways, and i find that sometimes they are in conflict, so philosophy has to be the one to surrender. have you ever had that? here's a short part from yet another keats poem that i always think about concerning this, don't know if you'll agree but i think it's a great parallel. it makes more sense in context, but this is the part that directly talks about it.

"My muse had wings,
And ever ready was to take her course
Whither I bent her force,
Unintellectual, yet divine to me-
Divine, I say! What sea-bird o'er the sea
Is a philosopher the while he goes
Winging along where the great water throes?"

Posted by: skaught at April 20, 2005 12:07 PM

thanks for the marvelous comments. Here's my current line of "thought" on the matter.

1) No, but I had previously always thought that artistic movements influenced philophy influenced artistic movements, etc. And I still do. But this is throwing a stick in the spokes a bit.

2) I GUESS! but maybe its just a linguistic one. I mean he lived in what we now consider a postmodern age, and given that statement, I'd say he wrote postmodern music. (And I'd be making gross generalizations again, but generalizations are a logical knife.) Those music historians must be so overworked that they dont' leave their little boxes to connect it to the bigger picture very much, so they give it a different name... Hrm...

3) Almost certainly. Which is why I asked this question in the first place.

Skaught, that is a neat little image of the interplay that (i like to imagine) takes place between philosophy and art. Both respond to the human condition in some way, why shouldn't they reach similar conclusions? Sometimes philosophy rides the muse of art. First reactions are always emotional anyway, it makes sense.

My initial conclusion: There is a rift in labelling between art and philosophy. There are not huge discrepancies between art and philosophy. Art gets there first. Philosophy interprets art. The end.

...flame away.

Posted by: pedalboy at April 20, 2005 4:07 PM

whoa, you're my hero for the day for the line

"philosophy interprets art."

did you read that or think of it, be honest...

Posted by: skaught at April 20, 2005 5:42 PM

Well, I didn't read "philosophy interprets art" anywhere. But our opinions are always shaped and informed by what we read, and actually, I think I got to that conclusion from the poem that you posted.

Kate we need your thoughts on all these new developments. As for me and my house, we're off to the DC for some lunch.


Posted by: pedalboy at April 21, 2005 12:11 PM

you're missing something.

it is perfectly true that philosophy interprets art, but art is created from the standpoint of a certain philosophy. the philosophy of the artist. it doesn't have to be logically sound, it's just what the artist is thinking.

they are, at their foundations, connected though time and the ideas of progress have lead them to become separate language games.

randy said something really interesting and i don't know what to think of it. so you all deal with it.

"philosophy is art"

to which i would add:

"art is philosophy"


Posted by: john at April 21, 2005 2:00 PM

or a similar famous question between "life imitates art"/"art imitates life"

here's an attempt. what philosophy is there behind an emotional response to something beautiful like a sunset? once you start to analyze why you think it's beautiful or why something gives you joy you enter philosophy and lose the reaction though it may come to an accurate conclusion. try it sometime when you're in that situation, it involves stepping back. art simply says what IS, we're still singing about the same things, and wondering about the same questions without having to offer conclusions. as lewis put it, he was "surprised by joy" and as soon as he thought about why he was feeling it, it left. it's beyond our knowing at the time, and only later do we try to figure out the aspect of the human condition that makes us feel that way. in art, you create something that expresses or captures an experience, not the reason why.

and what randy "may" have meant by philosophy is art is that it's an inexact science to say the least. it doesn't necessarily follow that art is philosophy unless it's propaganda art (so it depends on your philosophy of art lol). it's shaped by the times, but mostly the medium is what changes. i do agree that art can have in it the philosophy of the person creating it, just as it can have his prejudice, vice, etc. but i believe great art can transcend those things if the artist empties himself, creating the experience, not the preachy personal analyzing of it. wagner was a terrible bastard of a man, but created masterpieces with idealistic virtue well beyond himself.

so, our experience is shaped by our philosophy, but the part that is shaped is only our understanding of it. the experience itself is unchanging and to create that is to bypass philosophy.

Posted by: skaught at April 21, 2005 4:43 PM

a philosophy isn't a philosophy until it is structured and understood (strictly speaking, as I will contradict this point later). Which comes from understanding "what the artist (or human) is thinking." Philosophy is the art of understanding the world. If you don't understand it (i.e. develop a framework to think about things) its not philosophy yet.

philosophy is art: I do not know where he is going with this. Philosophy is AN art, just like good elegant computer programming is an art. But art? I need more than that.

Art is philosophy: Here is where I will contradict point one: Art can be a way of understanding something. The albums I write help me understand myself. For example, they give me a frame of reference with which to look back on my life to make comparisons - have I changed, have I grown, is what I am now good, etc... That is philosophy. It is (un)fortunately a very very poorly definable one. Which is why it is fun, perhaps. And that is also why it isn't really contradicting point one, because if i walked up to Boyd and said "My art is my philosophy," he would say "Define it," and the mere fact that it is art necessitaties its undefinable nature. He might get a little pissed calling that Philosophy.

I just read skaught's response and i think that's what he's saying. You can't define art.

Oh and dangit skaught your cor 401 presentation today was a great example of philosophy interpretting art. or trying to... i like the josh kenyan "why can't we just let it be what it is?" idea, but the reality is in a structured academic institution like a college, the idea of art has always had to be defined and understood, which cheapens it. That is why there are conservatories - to get away from having to apply logical criteria to art to define it.

and wagner was a bastard of a man. But skaught, what about Jacques Derrida from your presentation today? "An act of naming should quite rightly enable me to call anything a self-portrait, not only any drawing, 'portrait' or not, but everything that happens to me, that I can affect, or that afects me." Your thoughts on that as it pertains to Wagner and his "idealistic virtue?"

Posted by: pedalboy at April 21, 2005 10:47 PM

yeah, you're right about the project. we can't really escape the fact that it's for a class, for learning, and we have a somewhat specific, philosophical direction to lead you (propaganda!) because it's an institution of learning. although, kenyan's idea that we end on my bizarre scene with dan totally missed the point of it. it's far too simple, and only involved the outside action of hearing the words someone speaks.

if anyone else wants to tackle the derrida question go ahead.

the question of wagner, or what he represents (bad man, great artist) is something i haven't completely reconciled, much less can i apply a deconstructionist view of him when i also have a difficult time understanding deconstructionism, i usually find it either slightly helpful or at other times silly and self-indulgent.

i have some thoughts swimming around, but i'm going to take my group's advice and not enter verbal masturbation... (a title which, as burton put it, makes it obvious once again that it's for learning since it takes the title "I and I" and hits you over the head with a bat so you get it."

if i ever think i understand those two things and can apply one to the other, i'll get back to you. but trust me, it'll be a while. did you have a thought on it yourself?

Posted by: skaught at April 22, 2005 12:09 PM

the keats poem is good. very good.

i think you are selling both philosophy and art short.
art cannot be solely interested in expressing what IS. it makes philosophy out to be the bad guy. analytic philosophy can definitely suck the life out of pretty much anything, but that's not what you should be talking about. seriously...philosophy implies an understood concept? what? metaphysics? epistemology? philosophy of religion? what concrete explanations have those come up with?

so first of all, i think philosophy is more concerned with the process of questioning. each pseudo-answer given to every minutely worded question brings you one tiny step closer to understanding your own life. in that way art is philosophy.
second of all, by saying that art only expresses what IS you relinquish all vestiges of responsibility from art (and/or the artist). capturing that perfect expression of emotion is only good for the recognition. once you recognize yourself in the art you have to move on. that's where the philosophy comes in.

okay, i guess my argument is that philosophy, as well as art, is a way to understanding. they are both means, not ends. philosophy is not the sure fire way to understand anything. art is expression, but so is philosophy. that's where the different languages come in. philosophy is art in word motion. they are not so different. i don't either one could survive on its own.

p.s. tolstoy HATED wagner. if anyone knows why i'd really like to know...

Posted by: kate at April 23, 2005 1:48 AM

amen kate. i tend to agree though the idea of separate word games can get messy at times. as far as derrida goes, i'm gonna take a shot at it. derrida is pretty much working in the field of philosophy of literature, specifically dealing with the texts themselves. his premise is that meaning does not exist until after the text has come into being. therefore, the existence of meaning is a posteriori to the event of the text. this has several promising implications for art and can be helpful to the argument that art is somewhat transcendent. say matt draws a stick man on a piece of paper (this is our example of art). now this piece of art is transcendent in that it can be percieved in an infinite number of ways. in that sense, art is transcendent. the MEANING of art is transcendent.

but there's a catch.

derrida also said that texts cannot exist without an "other". that is, the content of the text cannot be understood without that which has been purposefully left out of the text. so in that sense, there is a definate bias against that which is unimportant, irrelevant, or wrong in the eyes of the artist. given that premise, we can see strong implications for art.

a part of philosophy is asking questions about value. art is similar to derrida's "texts" in that it doesn't exist without an other. there is always something left out of art. there is always something left out of everything else. so, the artist is making aesthetic value judgements while in the process of creating the piece of art. therefore, they are coming to the table with philosophic ideas and questions and biases a priori to the art event.

so, philosophy and art are intertwined and are not always playing different language games. neither is better than the other (in my estimation).

and i don't know if you necessarily have to move on once you've recognized yourself in the art. maybe you should stay a while and exist there as the art. maybe you should try to find someone else in the art regardless of who it is.

deconstruction is depressing because it doesn't offer much hope and it comes from france. so does calvinism. deconstruction does not offer us a "system" of our world and does not offer us any idea of how to live. if anything, it is arbitrarily telling us that we have biases before we do things and that we do not exist alone.

this is all from my limited knowledge of derrida and deconstruction mind you. so forgive any gross exaggerations or misrepresentations.

deconstruction's a hell of a'll do things to a man...

Posted by: john at April 23, 2005 2:48 AM

thoughts have been formulated. resume discourse in

Alright first up is kate. If art is expressing what IS, "what IS" has to include how you feel about it. I don't really think I ever said that art is solely concerned with concrete reality anyway. Cuz I sure don't believe that.
And I didn't mean to say that philosophies must have produced concrete ideas either... What I meant for an idea to be understood was that it has a system of thought based around it. Like what is real? Nobody knows, lots of ways of thinking about it. "Ways of thinking about it" is philosophy. Das what I mean.

Who said art has any responsibilities in the first place?

Philosophy is expression - yes but there are a few problems with that. First, you must remember that the definition of art as "self-expression" is very new! Secondly, since there are more definite goals and (i would argue) more definite rules in philosophy, it is expression like writing instructions to set a digital watch is expression - it reflects how I think about the watch, and if you and I both wrote a set of instructions, they would be very different, proving that its expression. But does it really say all the things my soul longs to say? Geek I may be, I do have more important things to scream from hilltops than how to lead a more precisely time-bound life.

What do you mean about the "recognition" idea? Good art takes the personal and elevates it to the transcendent. Like shostakovich's string quartet no 8. he even spells his name in the music, but later quotes a revolutionary folk song, bringing us around from the personal the the universal. Human spirit, baby. Why on earth would you want to stop when you recognize yourself in art? Or maybe I don't get you.

John, as we discovered at dinner the other day, we are going to the same place with Derrida - the "everything you are involved with (and also implying everything you are NOT involved with) reflects on you" idea.

And I can tell you why Tolstoy hated Wagner. Because Tolstoy hated everyone. Ha well Shostakovich didn't much like Tolstoy. So there.

Ok Wagner... Initial thought: As in the previous thought experiment with the digital watches, the directions that kate and I wrote tell us something about the diferences between her and me. Of course, Kate is a vile wretch. Does this imply that her directions are inferior? No - the reflection of the "text" she created does not portray much of her spirit - it is too narrow. Does this work for Wagner? No, but its a start, maybe. Wagner's "instruction manual" speaks very much about the things that he himself (we judege) must know little about - truth and beauty, etc... So it doesn't really help us much there.

I will leave you with this one integration of art and philosophy - the first time I listened to Kid A I was wearing headphones, immersed in Kafka's "Metamorphosis." Made that album (and book) a whole heck of a lot better.

Posted by: pedalboy at April 25, 2005 9:02 PM

i don't know if art has any responsibilities, but the artist might. there's a great book i read a while ago and it's online as a free e-book.

and, on a trivial point...i love metamorphosis too, but as chesterton said, "music with dinner is an insult both to the cook and the violinist". just so you don't start saying hey, classical music is great, it really helps me study and sleep!

wagner wagner-you know, tristan und isolde has music in it that has often been labeled as some of the most passionate and heart wrenching music of unrequited love ever written. whether or not that's true (i think it might be, i heard about the last 15 seconds of it when i was 7 or 8 on the radio in the dark and i couldn't sleep cause i was scared lol) it's interesting that at the time he composed it, wagner was having an adulterous affair with liszt's daughter cosima. it's as if he somehow took the experience and separated the pure from the filth. you could say he had a deep sense of how things "should" be, but was disillusioned with reality. yet, how you act betrays your deepest beliefs. so, once again, that gets me nowhere and i don't know.

Posted by: skaught at April 25, 2005 11:07 PM
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