Satire when it works: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/john-fleming-onion-real-politican-posts-link-fake-news-planned-parenthood-facebook-article-1.1018018?localLinksEnabled=false ( i especially love The Onion's response )
Ashkenazy performs Moonlight: http://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-Favourite-Sonatas-Vladimir-Ashkenazy/dp/B0000041LE
I rediscovered Moonlight Sonata the other day. I was playing an Ipad game called "Magic Piano" where light globes scroll down the screen until they hit a specific altitude, at this point you touch them with your fingers. If you hit them in time they will play the selected song. Its similiar to guitar hero or dance dance revolution. Besides the obvious nickel and diming they do to get you to purchase songs, it is a neat little app.
Anyway, I started to play the first movement of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata", simply titled Moonlight Sonata in the app. I was immediately swept with emotion as I continued to drum on the screen, keeping time with the light orbs falling as they delivered the song to my headphones.
I swept over to the itunes store and purchased an album of a pianist performing three of Beethoven's sonatas and eagerly started Moonlight.
That feeling you get. You know, the one that seems to come from what you can only imagine is your soul, that ripples pleasure in the form of a mixture of pure emotions. Its called the "aesthetic experience". Folks get it from all kinds of things.
Pop music does this the most because its familiarity and accessibility allows us to quickly attach to it. Have you ever listened to an album and it not do much for you, but the more you listen, the more it moves you until you can't believe you ever thought little of it? It is because the more you the listen the more you connect with the inner tissues of the material, the more aesthetic experience you can squeeze out of it. That is why genres of music you typically listen to the most have this effect more quickly, while strange and different styles are lost on you.
Who we are, individually, affects what moves us as well as our familiarity with the material. More importantly, however, is the ability to Move someone by having them connect to material that is different then what they have experienced before.
For some, this is the goal of art. For what is art? Some will say that art is anything that conveys an emotion from one party to another. I don't think it has to be that precise. I believe that art is anything that can invoke emotion. period.
If the artist succeeds in dictating what that emotion is, more power to them, but I am cynical to the idea that that is ever completely achieved.
But what I felt sitting there listening to the "Moonlight Sonata" knocked me over. Now I am a strange one. Commercials have been known to make me a bit misty eyed. Real life drama can leave me cold and lifeless, yet a note sung the right way can make me tear up in an instance.
Then another thing happened. When I hit the third movement, another aesthetic experience rushed over me... but this one was magnified by the recognition of an earlier memory.
I was just out of college and had downloaded the program Noteworthy Composer, a program that allowed you to create sheet music and have the computer play it for you. I created some of my own music, and I tried to replicate songs I enjoyed... one of my great successes was figuring out the sheet music to a song on the Amelie soundtrack, another collection of moving arrangements.
But another thing I did was download other, more comprehensive, saved noteworthy composition files. For instance, I downloaded the rendition of "Philosophy" by Ben Folds. A rolling piano number that hits a pop and musical button.
Another one was the third movement of the "Moonlight Sonata". I sat dumbfounded in my chair as I watched on my monitor the program rapidly highlight the notes it was playing. There were so many at once and coming and going. This visual representation of a musical masterpiece that I had not personally heard before simply struck me dumb. It put to shame anything I had ever experienced before.
And here I was, so many years later, sitting back remembering this moment as a very gifted pianist plays the piece directly into my headphones.
I needed more. I needed to feel more. My compulsive mechanisms were buzzing with full addiction tendencies.
Back to itunes I went, searching through the classical section of itunes and grabbing things that seemed to be rated well. One was a collection of songs played by a group of folks whose talents ranged from classical to jazz to bluegrass. It is called the "Goat Rodeo Sessions" and was amazing. Especially for an old jam head like myself.
I then came upon an album by the group "Invincible". It was a collection of musical pieces that can be found in many of the movies and previews we see. 3 to 5 minute short injections of aesthetic experience.
And I felt cheap. Easy.
Invincible are surely talented musicians, but the short, but effective uppercuts of emotional conjuring sounds made me realize how truly undecided I am on Art.
Commercials have a better chance at moving me then my own grandfather's death. And the fact is, that is a disingenuous use of art. If I am moved, I connect those emotions to an unrelated product.
Even previews have that motive. Perhaps movies, somewhere at their core, yearn to be art and not commercialism, but the line was blurred a long time ago.
And while I remember fondly my first discovery of Pink Floyd's "Atom Heart Mother", or how Abbey Road opened my eyes to the true effectiveness of pop songs, I still must decide whether or not I trust the movement inside me.
We strive to be moved. We yearn to have our core ripped, torn, and placed back together, as if by doing so, like a muscle, we will grow stronger and wiser through the process.
And maybe we do.
But what of the emotion that helped drive WWII? Or the nostalgic rush that helped me want to plow into more fast food and join the US roadway to diabetes adoption? Or the fear that strikes me so harshly that I will refuse to believe logic and reason altogether and vote against my own interests?
What is gained? Is there is a payout that is more than just the nice but unnecessary pleasure that could be equated with a good tasting meal?
Satire can have a great message. Just today I read an article about a politician who read a satirical article by the impossibly smart Onion newspaper about Planned Parenthood. In perfect illustrative fashion of satire, the politician took seriously an article that was meant to make fun of his position. Beautiful.
Well, art has been used to convey ideas and perspective. And just as one can view the spectrum of marketing going from informing of a product to persuading a customer against their better interest, you can view the spectrum of art as a spectrum ranging from a genuine attempt at sharing and broadening perspective to a deliberate attempt to skew it.
Art is human. And human is art.
So to question whether it is good or bad is like questioning whether gravity is good or bad. It exists without prejudice. It is used for all endeavors in one form or another. And while the true question of existence can never be answered, it certainly can be argued that we are our collection of memories and experiences, and to that end the more we are moved the more we are.
So I say let it all stand, but let us become more consciously aware of it. So that the Moonlight Sonatas can fully affect us, the movie previews can be allowed access, true genius and perspective shared as much as possible, while the directed forms of aesthetics can be critically experienced.
Perhaps its as simple as allowing the Aesthetic experience remain what it is, and when our soul is moved, allow that to be enough.
It still doesn't answer what that feeling is, and why it comes through art but is so watered down in reality. Perhaps there is more to that and how we involve ourselves in our own lives... how perhaps what we experience with art is closer to our physical reality then our actual lives... but thats another thought for another night.
In the meantime, listen to all three movements of the Moonlight Sonata... close your eyes and visualize the sounds. While you do that I am going to go download George Michael so that I can do the same thing with "Freedom".