Many years ago, I had a college buddy who was an evangelizing devotee of the abstract painter Marc Rothko. I bear in mind her gushing over a catalog of Rothko’s work, while I was thinking that I must be aesthetically challenged; I just didn’t “get” it. After all, many of the paintings weren’thing however large rectangles of shade, with slight irregularities and a contrasting border or stripe. All of the familiar reference points of line and form, perspective and shadow, had been gone. I may respect them as “design,” however not as “art.” While they had been pleasing enough, I couldn’t see why anyone would rhapsodize over these abstractions… until I first saw them for myself in individual–a completely totally different expertise! After I encountered them at the Museum of Modern Artwork, they literally stopped me in my tracks, subverting aware thought and plunging me immediately into an altered state. They were not just flat canvases on a wall, but appeared more like dwelling things, pulsing and throbbing in resonance to a wavelength that had a basic connection to the Source of things. I was stunned. They did not “categorical” a sense–they have been more like emotions themselves, and they seemed like nothing personal to me, or Rothko, or anyone. Once I later regarded on the reproductions Rothko’s works in books, they reverted to flat swatches of color. There was a recollection, but no recreation of my experience. This was an expertise that depended on the presence of the original artifact (art: a fact).
A Tune is Not a Tone
I spent my early musical life working largely with music that used-like representational art–some set of familiar musical conventions to create its effect. There are lots of vocabularies of melody, counterpoint, rhythm, concord, and construction that place music in a context of type that makes it understandable to listeners. “Understandable” will not be precisely what I imply–it means that music communicates only intellectual ideas, whereas actually, it conveys and expresses a complete range of ideas, emotions, sensations and associations. However there is an element of “intelligibility” to traditional forms of music that relies on a shared formal vocabulary of expression. There are acquainted elements that listeners use to anchor their real-time expertise of a composition, formal or sonic components which are borrowed from other pieces created and listened to in the past. When I discover myself humming a tune from a Beethoven symphony, or invoking considered one of its characteristic rhythms (dit-dit-dit-DAH), I reduce a fancy sonic tapestry to an abstraction, a shorthand that’s simply recognizable to others familiar with the music. I may be able to share a musical thought with different musicians using the abstraction of notation. However a “tune” just isn’t a “tone,” and a “note” is not a “sound.” It is an concept, even a robust thought, but once I discover myself buzzing the tune, I know that I have not directly “consumed” the music, reduced it to a subset of its conventions, deconstructed and reconstructed it for my own purposes.