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Education: Rotterdam Conservatory, Cambridge University // Activities: composition, writing

Friday 29 September 2023

Art cannot be learned

The element which makes a work of art great, in the sense of: an authentic contribution to the whole of existing works in the genre concerned, cannot be learned and cannot be taught, because its source is the given character of the personality of the artist. The only thing that can be learned, is technique, and only so in a relative sense.

Van Gogh and Cézanne were bad in drawing, but their 'clumsiness' became part of their expressive motivation, so a flaw got turned into an asset. But how is that possible? through the very personal vision of the artist and such thing cannot be learned, it is a natural given, it is part of the artist's Self.

The occurrance of truly original and authentic artists is a rare thing and cannot be manipulated. It can be hindered, or stimulated, but not created. Numerous composers have polished their technique at the works of J.S. Bach, but the composers who could turn what they learned into music entirely of their own, can be counted on one hand - Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms. Viennese composer and first one to create music without tonality, Arnold Schoenberg, taught his entire life the technique and theory of music, but only his early two students: Anton Webern and Alban Berg, became composers in their own right and Schoenberg's influence on their creative visions was probably more negative than positive. What happened to the hundreds of the other pupils? The silence of mediocrity.

With writers it is the same. They all learn the language and how to turn ideas into interesting or striking sentences and imagery, but the writers who really have something of meaningful content to say, are rare.

Nowadays, because of a greater accessibility to any repertoire of any art form, many more people like to become 'an artist', or 'a writer' or 'a poet', or 'a composer'. Academia has, since the 19th century, created a trajectory of education which produces thousands of aspiring artists, poets, composers per year. How many of them do have the real spirit and character of meaningful art? In the visual arts and contemporary music, education has become - in general - standardized 'modern' which is in fact the conventionalized, watered-down version of the avantgardes of half a century ago, and that is the best way of preventing any real talent from emerging. Any real artistic talent in the visual arts and contemporary music will be found among the self-taught people who have enough talent and original personality to seek-out what they need for their inner visions and where to find it.

And writers? Youngsters go to university to learn 'how to become a writer', which is something like taking a training class à $ .... p/month to become a saint. Writing courses bloom at every corner of any city in the world, where aspiring geniusses train themselves in 'creative writing'. All of these activities produce a veritable tsunami of mediocre texts, flooding the magazines with stories which are remarkably interchangeable in terms of style and subject matter.

 The idea that writers like Tolstoy, Proust, Kafka or Canetti had needed Creative Writing Courses to be able to become themselves, is preposterous. And of the great composers in the 'canon', it should be noted that hardly any of them went through a conservatory, and Berlioz, Mahler and Debussy - who did - hated it and got scarred.

The wrong idea that art can be learned, produces a sea of ephemeral production that hinders the rare, unique individual talent. And nowadays, artificial intelligence is developing programs which will produce all of this writing, painting, composing without the meaningless efforts of disillusioned young people. The result of these developments is that mediocrity and convention suffocate invention and the emergence of real talent. Because, how would she/he be recognized? She/he will be measured to what 'is trending' and that is the mediocre mass of insignificance, and she/he will be found wanting, because of not adapting to the 'standards' of which it is hoped that they will eventually really produce great works. It is all based upon the typical Western misunderstanding that something artistic has a rational, objective basis, and that you can get at the real source of artistic meaning through manipulation of human nature. This is comparable with the way, Western civilisation has undertaken the destruction of the planet with its technology and objectification of reality.

Never in the history of mankind was mediocrity and convention in the arts throned as the totalitarian power of the talentless as in our own days.... thanks to the progress made in accessibility, media, IT, etc. and the standardizing of academia.

Monday 18 September 2023

The War on Music

"Otto Dix and Emil Nolde were allowed to paint figuratively, while Thomas Mann and Döblin wrote novels with coherent narratives. Their revival after the Nazi embargos was warmly appreciated. But music? Suddenly, the only music that counted was whatever cultural arbiters extrapolated as being music Hitler would not have liked. Why it was important to promote music people assumed Hitler would have hated as opposed to reviving the music he banned resulted in myriad complex, socio-philosophical excuses. Post-war German musicologists educated by Theodor Adorno and Carl Dahlhaus decided that music was a key foundation needed in creating a new and better society. Music that spoke to deeper human emotions inevitably spoke to their worst human characteristics. A new musical language was required to speak to a better humanity. A new society could only come about with new cultural foundations. The foundations of the past had created brutal, rotten, degenerate, hate-filled societies. Emotionally indulgent art had only facilitated cultural decline into primitivism."

Fascinating review of  John Mauceri's book 'The War on Music', by the Viennese Exilarte Centre researcher Dr Michael Haas: