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Does Art (with a capital A) belong in music?

PostPosted: Wed Sep 23, 2015 4:42 pm
by Adam Blake
Having slightly disparaged poor old Danielle Dax for being so self-consciously Arty in her youth got me thinking: Music that is conceived and presented as Art - where do we stand on this curious phenomenon? I'm not talking about Culture (with a capital C) - yer Bach's and Beethoven's etc. A lot of classical music was conceived for specific occasions anyway and was never intended to outlive its day (or its usefulness). Not until the Romantic era did composers start thinking about their work as Art for its own sake.

Nor do I mean music that some educated folk have come along after the fact and declared as Art (Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, most of the best of Black American music, in fact). Not that that isn't Art, but it's not what I'm talking about.

No, I mean music conceived and presented as Art from the off. Yer actual Velvet Underground's and Faust's (both of whom I love to bits), yer "Day In The Life" and "Revolution No.9", early Roxy Music, our old friend David Bowie - some of it is, some of it isn't. (Good luck to whoever tries to sort out which is what. Howard?)

Do we have a view? Or should we just stop all this nonsense and go back to our Dub Collossus and Celia Cruz cd's?

Re: Does Art (with a capital A) belong in music?

PostPosted: Wed Sep 23, 2015 6:32 pm
by Jamie Renton
Adam Blake wrote:should we just stop all this nonsense and go back to our Dub Collossus and Celia Cruz cd's?


Yes

Although I'd argue that Dub Colossus can get a bit arty in their jazzier moments: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjQyWRBA45M

Music for me is like food or drink. Something I seek a direct emotional response from. The taste or the sound either make me feel good or they don't.

Whereas with literature, theatre or film, for example, I'm prepared to take a step back and admire a piece of work as art, instead of or (in the best possible cases) as well as, getting a direct emotional kick from it.

I don't know why this is and don't believe that everyone should approach these things in the same way as I do. It's just how it works for me.

On reflection, this might have something to do with my lacking the technical know how to appreciate music on an intellectual/artistic level, so I just wade in and enjoy what I like.

Re: Does Art (with a capital A) belong in music?

PostPosted: Wed Sep 23, 2015 8:22 pm
by Rob Hall
There may well be a place for art in music in the way that you describe it but it doesn't do much for me personally. If I respond to a piece of music by the Velvets, or Bowie, or Roxy Music, it's because it appeals to me in some way that doesn't involve the answer to the question 'yes, but is it art?' (Then again, when I was younger, I may well have thought otherwise.)

But you might consider where beauty fits into this question. Not that I know the answer. I sometimes use music as a means of ready access to something beautiful that satisfies in a way that - for example, looking at a reproduction of a favourite piece of art, or watching a favourite film - doesn't. And it's not because of the fact that the visual stuff is in reproduction form, because the music that I listen to is itself a reproduction.

It may well be the case that classical and/or jazz composers, while not consciously attempting to create 'art', were consciously attempting to create something beautiful. I wonder if the Velvets/Bowie/Roxy etc., were consciously attempting to create beauty?

Re: Does Art (with a capital A) belong in music?

PostPosted: Wed Sep 23, 2015 8:37 pm
by Adam Blake
Well, of course the proof is in the pudding. If you don't like the sound it makes, no music is going to get by on Art credentials alone (except possibly the entire academic establishment of music from about 1924 to 1964 when Terry Riley rescued them with "In C", but that's another discussion). I think it IS possible to get your rocks off to Art music. But perhaps not very often. I think the musicians/composers intention is very important when discussing Art in music. Has it been labelled Art after the fact? I think, for example, the Velvets did not consider themselves an Art project until they entered Warhol's factory. But having a classically trained viola player (with an explicit audio terrorist agenda) in a band with a bunch of completely (musically) illiterate rock'n'rollers was an essentially Art thing to do. Or was it? I'm confused.

Maybe you're right, Jamie. Turn that Franco Luambo tape up, willya?

Re: Does Art (with a capital A) belong in music?

PostPosted: Wed Sep 23, 2015 10:49 pm
by AndyM
Without the Art urge, no Kate Bush, no Captain Beefheart, no Duke Ellington, no Wire, no Van Der Graaf Generator, no Henry Cow, no Pere Ubu, no Bjork........

Who'd give all that up ?

Re: Does Art (with a capital A) belong in music?

PostPosted: Wed Sep 23, 2015 11:25 pm
by Gordon Neill
Andy asked:
Who'd give all that up ?


Me. The whole bluddy lot of them. You could take their entire output, pile it up as high as it'll go, and it would still fall way short of any track by John Lee Hooker, Otis Redding, John Lennon (before he got all 'arty'), Howlin' Wolf etc...

It's not that I don't know that they all use artifice (or 'art', if you must). That's entertainment. It's just that some are much better at it than others. You don't notice the technique, just the magic. The 'artists' are simply self-conscious, bumbling amateurs. IMHO.

Re: Does Art (with a capital A) belong in music?

PostPosted: Wed Sep 23, 2015 11:36 pm
by alister prince
Adam, in many ways you've asked an unanswerable question. Defining art in any medium is nigh on impossible. Academics, critics, et al , might claim to know, but do they? Setting oneself up as an expert doesn't mean you are one, or have the answer, merely that you have persuaded (conned?) people that you are/do. A magic trick. Look at all those fakes painted by folk such as Keating; they were 'art' until it was discovered they were fakes. I read recently that huge amounts of works in galleries and museums are probably fakes. Revered as works by various great artists, in reality not so. Art is in the eye (or in music's case, ear) of the beholder, like reality.
So Art in music, what does it mean. I like Rob's take (beauty) and Jamie's (food and drink). For me I guess it's what makes me think and come back for more. Whether the performer is trying to achieve art is less interesting for me than if it works. Yes many performers may be trying to achieve art, but it's pretty pointless if nobody listens. Too often pretention makes the work unlistenable, or not worth the aural effort. Trying too hard to be artistic ain't art. One of the antonyms of pretensious is 'untrue', so I guess if it doesn't seem true to me it's not art. There again much of the music I love seems totally true to me and doesn't aspire to be art.
Oh sod it I'm off to listen to some gospel...
Aly

Re: Does Art (with a capital A) belong in music?

PostPosted: Thu Sep 24, 2015 10:44 am
by john poole

Re: Does Art (with a capital A) belong in music?

PostPosted: Thu Sep 24, 2015 11:56 am
by Adam Blake
Thanks, gents, all. Yes, I daresay it is an unanswerable question, Aly, but I wanted to have a look at music that set out to be Art, quite self-consciously, and whether or not that very self-consciousness disqualifies it for serious consideration in music. My own feeling is: no, it doesn't. If the Art is any good, it doesn't how self-consciously it has been achieved.

But there doesn't seem to be much Art music around nowadays, or am I just out of touch (or both)?

Where are the Virgin Prunes, This Heat, and, yes, (God help us) The Lemon Kittens of today?

Re: Does Art (with a capital A) belong in music?

PostPosted: Thu Sep 24, 2015 12:06 pm
by Rob Hall
Just a thought: weren't the early Who a conscious 'Art' project? And Ian Dury always had a very strong 'Art' element to his work.

As for current artists: Andy mentioned Bjork, and I'd have thought Lady Gaga would qualify. Is Laurie Anderson still active? More parochially, there's Billy Childish and Throbbing Gristle (if they're still around).

Re: Does Art (with a capital A) belong in music?

PostPosted: Thu Sep 24, 2015 12:07 pm
by Adam Blake
john poole wrote:Yes, he does -
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHhYTDlEG7w


Ahem... Reliable, John, as ever!

Re: Does Art (with a capital A) belong in music?

PostPosted: Thu Sep 24, 2015 1:30 pm
by john poole
Rob Hall wrote:Is Laurie Anderson still active?
She certainly is, but sadly her terrier Lolabelle has now gone to doggy heaven
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8C7DMlfrCEk

http://dangerousminds.net/comments/watc ... ntal_music

Re: Does Art (with a capital A) belong in music?

PostPosted: Thu Sep 24, 2015 3:25 pm
by NormanD
Texan Terry Allen is a creative artist (sculptor, painter), who also writes and sings country-weird music, and has done at least one country song about art: 'A Truckload of Art' (I couldn't find his own version, with the beginning recitation about the artistic rivalries between the US east and west coasts):

Once upon a time…
Sometime ago back on the east coast
In New York City, to be exact…
A bunch of artists and painters and
sculptors and musicians and
poets and writers and dancers
and architects
Started feeling real superior
to their ego-counter-parts
Out on the West Coast…so,
They all got together and decided
They would show those snotty surfer upstarts
A thing or two about the Big Apple
And…they hired themselves a truck
It was a big, spanking new white-shiny
Chrome-plated cab-over
Peterbilt…
With mudflaps, stereo, tv, AM & FM radio,
Leather seats and a naugahide sleeper…
All fresh
With new American Flag decals and "ART ARK"
Printed on the side of the door
With solid 24 karat gold leaf type…
And they filled up this truck
With the most significant piles
And influential heaps of Art Work
To ever be assembled in Modern Times,
And it sent it West…to chide
Cajole, humble and humiliate…the Golden Bear.
And this is the true story of that truck…


A country song, using a Hank Williams tune, taking the piss out of artistic pretension and rivalries. What's not to like?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFV9BDBwlCM

Re: Does Art (with a capital A) belong in music?

PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 2015 3:06 pm
by Adam Blake
Yeah, I didn't expect much sympathy for Art in music from you lot (Andy excepted). Nevertheless, I shall start a little Art Music corner and see if anyone likes it or wants to contribute.

Re: Does Art (with a capital A) belong in music?

PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 2015 4:26 pm
by NormanD
You wait. You'll get "'Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats And Dogs' before you know it.