Monday, 22 August 2022

Sonic low life

German sonic artist Georg Friedrich Haas teaches at Columbia University in New York.

This interview offers an interesting insight into the civilisational level of the art of sounds, and the values informing it:

Viewers' discretion is strongly advised and parents properly warned.

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

White Antiquity

On 16th of August, the BBC News website sported a video with the title: ‘Chromophobia: The greatest conspiracy in ancient art’, in which is explained that the general and traditional idea that sculpture of Greek/Roman Antiquity was whitish, is wrong - both sculpture and architecture was brightly coloured, which gives a very different aesthetic impression:

But the video is incomplete and misleading. The impression is given that the idea of whitish sculpture is a prejudice and resistence to evidence, and that tastemakers suppressed the idea of colouring of Antiquity for being vulgar.

The reason of the whiteness of Renaissance sculpture was, that recovered / dug out antique sculpture was predominantly white, so whiteness became symbol of the sublime authenticity of Antiquity which became the example to be followed, emulated, and transcended. Also in architecture. As the video correctly says: colour had withered away over time. The Renaissance artists and intellectuals did not have any strong evidence that antique sculpture was coloured. So this was not a bias, prejudice, or way of suppressing colour in sculpture and architecture.

The image of antique art as whitish was symbolic of purity, and being elevated above the ‘vulgarity’ of popular and Italian medieval taste. It had nothing to do with Renaissance preference of designo over colour as the video claims, or a protest against the church (Michelangelo's sculptures of bibilical figures like David, Moses and Christ are in white marble). There was a discussion among painters and arty intellectuals about what was more important, designo or colour, in painting, but this had nothing to do with the colour question of architecture and sculpture of Antiquity which were, after all, unanimously accepted and understood as whitish – simply because that is the condition in which antique works were dug-out, and how antique ruins looked, withered by time.

For that reason, and that reason alone, the Renaissance image of Antiquity was whitish.

The video projects a contemporary narrative of oppression and liberation (woke) upon the evidence of antique sculpture being coloured. But the whiteness was simply an aesthetic question related to an ideal, and not a political one of oppression, it was simply a widespread consensus, which in itself inspired sculpture and architecture since the Renaissance.

For instance, the title: ‘The greatest conspiracy in ancient art’, suggests that the ‘prejudice’ of antique whiteness was an attempt to suppress the idea that antique sculpture was coloured. There never was a conspiracy, and this very idea is a conspiracy theory in itself. Any later indications that antique sculpture was probably coloured was indeed received with incredulity: how could such ancient, sublime art be so ‘vulgar’? It contradicted the ideal of Antiquity as it developed since the 15th century deep into the 19th. And indeed an argument can be made that those colours were quite garish, vulgar, childish and primitive, like colourings and tatoos of primitive tribes living in jungles: underdeveloped aesthetics. Meanwhile, in the 20th century, bright colours have reestablished themselves in the art world, but that is an aesthetics different from the idealized Renaissance idea which was only challenged in the last century when such idealized aesthetics were considered elitist, academic, etc. So, resistance against historic evidence of antique colouring was a matter of aesthetics mixed with symbolism, and not a conspiracy. It is the contemporary woke obsession with social justice and suppression which interprets historic evidence entirely wrong.

Any serious art historian dealing with the ideas of Antiquity in the Renaissance would confirm all of the above.


Addendum 24/9/22:

Again a video on the BBC website, with lots of confusion, celebrating the suppression narrative again, with the most conspicuous mistake of taking modernism (in the visual arts and architcture) into account, as being on the same plane as 18C aesthetics, totally ignoring the fundamental break of 20C 'avantgarde' movements with any aesthetics from the past:

Especially serious is, again, the misinterpretation of white sculpture by Michelangelo as a protest against Christianity. The lack of knowledge of Renaissance culture is staggering. The ridiculous extension of the imagined controversy of whiteness contra colour to later symbolic architecture like the White House and St Paul's cathedral as if this has been dominating Western civilisation all along, clearly aims at paying lipservice to the woke movement which searches past and present for signals of social injustice, taking everything literally and projecting narrow prejudice on anything which can be used as supporting its claims.

With real social injustice this has nothing to do, and merely creates a layer of confusion over the real social problems which haunt Western societies.

Interesting is the title, which serves as a projection of context: 'Who stole the colour...' - this is supposed to indicate that there is a 'group', an 'enemy', who wants to suppress 'colour'. Referring to political symbols, this is a 'dog whistle' to suggest society is under threat by 'them', wanting to suppress anything that could be related to the notion of 'colour'. Message is clear: politicizing of culture, exactly like what the nazis did and the soviets, in the last, very dark century.

Tuesday, 9 August 2022

How to create a humane world?

There is no reason why, in art and thus, in music, timeless principles should not inform new creation. This simple, but often forgotten common sense idea is at the heart of the work and theories of architect Léon Krier, the father of new urbanism and a famous critic of modernism in contemporary architecture, and by extension of certain destructive aspects of modernity - or rather, an entirely twisted and perverse idea of what modernity as a concept is. He is also someone with a sharp mind for philosophical implications. 

From Krier's pioneering theories one of the most important conclusions drawn by the reader, is that the concept of 'tradition' has been seriously misunderstood in the 20th century. and this has led, in architecture but also and especially in the arts, to a suicidal poverty, emptying the arts of any meaning for the community, for civilization as a whole.

Here follow a number of quotes from his book 'The Architecture of Community' which are also of interest for music:

“Authentic architecture is not the incarnation of the spirit of the age but of the spirit, full stop."

“Cities and landscapes are illustrations of our spiritual and material worth. They not only express our values but give them a tangible reality. They determine the way in which we use or squander our energy, time, and land resources.”  

“Human intelligence is a limited resource. It cannot solve problems caused by ignoring fundamentals of existence.”

“The rigidity of a bottle's form does not affect the fluidity of the liquid it contains.”

"As is the case with all goods things in life - love, good manners, language, cooking - leaps of genius are required only rarely. The poet does not excel by inventing new words or languages but when, by subtle arrangements of otherwise familiar terms, he reveals human predicaments in new and poetic ways."

“Excessive hunger will in the end kill the body . . . we have to ask ourselves what beauty-depletion kills in us.”

“In traditional cultures, invention, innovation and discovery are the means to modernise proven and practical systems of thinking, planning, building, representing, communicating in the arts, philosophy, architecture, language, the sciences, industry and agriculture. They are the means to an end, they aim to conceive, realise and conserve a solid, durable, practical, beautiful, humane world.”

“For traditional cultures imitation is a way of producing objects that are similar but unique.”