I compose to understand my thinking. I lean towards the concept of equality and algorithmic coordination of individual elements of the work. As a remarkable polish experimental composer of the second half of the 20th century, Bogusław Schaeffer would say: “impose the information on the material and extract information from it”. This advice -in slight simplification of course- encourages us to draw conclusions that generate certain frame for the qualities in the work, creating a form which is an outcome of relations and influences of the more general aspects on the more particular and the other way around as well, simultaneously. With this simultaneous polyscopy it is difficult to speak of the superiority of any one element over the other one, however, taking perception into consideration – successive stages of cognitive processes of the recipient are naturally derived from the previous ones. During the reception they are revealed gradually, in sequence, although it can be assumed that thanks to the memory processes (confrontation of the sensory data and memory data as it was named by an American psychologist, Jerome S. Bruner) and multi-level information processing it is much more an experience of going deeper and deeper “into” the perceived representation of the work rather than moving “downwards” from the most general aspects to the most particular or “upwards”, respectively. This is a reference to the theory of external and internal contexts imposing meaning on the stimuli we gradually perceive for the first time or re-perceive them from a different perspective and with a the different final identification, for example thanks to the phenomenon of compression in perception. In the 1970’s Fergus I. M. Craik and Robert S. Lockhart for example introduced a levels-of-processing effect framework. Modifying some of their assumptions to make it more effective and clear in te case of music and arts, one can propose a simplified, three-level model of the process. 1st, the most shallow: sensory (completely abstract and physical); 2nd, deeper: identification, realization; 3rd, the deepest: activation of the content (stored in the long-term memory) correlated with the stimulus (images, associations, terms). It was proposed by polish music theoretician and composer Marcin Strzelecki in his MA dissertation entitled: “Lutosławski – 2nd Symphony. An analysis from a psychoacoustic perspective”. He stated: “(…) It is believed that at the first, more shallow levels of the process the perception is determined by the characteristics of physical stimuli, coded as so-called perceptual representation. In later stages of processing a greater role is played by the laws more similar to those described by gestaltists”.
The process of creating, (and not necessarily, but possibly) performing and perceiving such a work (at least in music), with more and more complex and detailed elements emerging reflects somehow the process of evolution. On the other hand however – it is reminiscent of the creation of a drawing. Transition from the general layout to the smallest details, but still beyond the “chronological order of the stage performance”, which is projected in the future. Timing is an immanent factor in perception of the work being revealed/performed. This dualistic resemblance in the process of composing is triggered with a single idea and forms an algorithmic, consistent expansion in all possible directions.
It is obvious by now, that the search for the ideal form for a particular material has already been compromised and is a complete nonsense. One of the best arguments in favour of such a position is natural selection in nature. Depending on the circumstances (context), the aim and ultimately attitudes, predispositions and cognitive capabilities of a recipient’s work, the model of the ideal form would undergo dynamic changes; thus, there is no realistic possibility of capturing its framework. Therefore one can conclude that the attempt to find the perfect recipe is a simply bad asked, naive question.
However, there are some regularities (in many cases simply algorithms), which may be measured in terms of efficiency of the form and it’s feedback of the material designed in accordance with them. A reference to the universal, in many cases biological basis of perception, reactions and reflexes is something that ensures the consistency of the work as well as its expressiveness; still, it sets almost none aesthetic barriers, which is very convenient of course. Just as countless different species can evolve from one single kind, each of them surviving in the surrounding environment. This way of economic and structural thinking, which for the “concert hall music” that I used to write in the past was confined to “organic geometrization”. This is certainly one of many distant echoes of functionalism/modernism, an approach which is in many cases attacked today. Still, having in mind the movement’s efficiency this critique seems to me unjustified. Now let us think how, with modern science and technology, can we produce effective music that really is stimulating.
In light of the above considerations (without forgetting about technological possibilities of expanding our perception), one can come to the conclusion that the total negation of the material aesthetics is misguided. It simply depends on the approach and what do you want to find. Although it is of extreme importance, but not all of art is about political and social issues. Everything is an evidence of some sort, but not everything is a statement. There is this grey area of “hidden”, intimate art involved in meditation or mental and sensory stimulation. To me the touch is a field for art as well, probably thanks to my multimodal synaesthesia. Context is very important but still, you have to have a really good reason to do music. One has to metaphorically ask himself every once in a while: “why this particular text needs to be sung?” Still, sound art is about the space, music is about the sound and sound is about the touch. It is just about the changes in the pressure and vibrations. Resonance is everything, one just needs to find his sweet spot.
HEADPHONES ARE OBLIGATORY!
I believe that in the face of a fairly short history of fields such as cognitive science and neuroaesthetics, looking away from these issues and probable possibilities in favour of content-aesthetics only is a withdrawal from the area of problems much more difficult to solve, and – in my opinion – much more interesting and fundamental. Harry Lehmann states, among others, that the first and foremost thing to do is to redefine the artistic ambitions and shift from material-aesthetics to the gehalt-aesthetics. He admits, that on a deeper level of analysis, the material also can be treated as an abstract “content”, but this used to be rather implied by the new music community than it was in reality. These abstract ideas were intended to be highly universal and thus, remained hermetic and inaccessible to many. I can partially agree with the last sentence. Still I think that if one is not familiar with the context, language, political, religious or any other situation any relational piece would be as inaccessible as every other work with aesthetical “language” one does not know. Still, the neurobiological aspect is much more universal and I do not agree with the above critique in this particular case. I wonder what is the reason behind the obsession of reconstructing and extracting specific social/political content of the work being so omnipresent. Searching for it in literally every work of art does not convince me because of several reasons, as I mentioned before not everything needs to be a statement. Firstly, thanks to the achievements of the cognitive science we know by now that all our knowledge is mediated by means of mental representation. However, these internal symbols are constructed on the basis of stimuli received by the sensors in our bodies – mechanically. Therefore it seems reasonable to assume that – in simplification – the specific pre-planning a particular sequence of stimuli to-be-received by the listener can more or less establish some kind of a code, synchronized with his cognitive apparatus. This can significantly affect the attractiveness of the process of perception and the work itself, still to a large extent independently of its non-sensory content. Secondly – I was never really convinced by the analysis of a musical piece in terms of “what the author wanted to say.” Music is the most abstract of all art forms and – in my opinion – it would be a pity to give up on this feature. It should even more radiate to other fields of life and work, from which it is almost impossible to be separated today. Of course, the results of any creative processes are shaped by circumstances and specific entanglements in temporary situations much more than by the author himself. Despite this, whatever the inspiration was – the work, the product itself with its potential influence, impact and efficiency is what truly interests me when it comes to technological progress in art.
ABSTRACTNESS OF MUSIC IS ITS MOST EXCEPTIONAL FEATURE THAT SHOULD RADIATE TO OTHER FIELDS OF LIFE AND CREATION FROM WHICH IT IS INSEPARABLE TODAY.
A work of art, although containing traces of the circumstances under which it was conceived, in this approach becomes an object of a particular (though it may be constantly changing) morphology. It becomes a tool, an instrument, which is designed to serve a certain purpose – to impact something with more or less specified direction but still with consequences that one is not able to entirely predict.
Creation of this kind is not it’s inspiration, it is also not focused on explaining anything in a narrative or referring way. The search of the most effective forms and means is a little bit like inventing a medicine, and in this case it does not matter whether the author had been bitten by a mosquito, his beloved had abandoned him or he just got injured during a fight or simply felt he wanted to make world a better place – if as a result of this event some inspiration appeared, for example simple anger (being like every emotion, nothing more but a specific chemical reaction occurring within the body) – which pushed him to create something. I believe that the conscious expression has very little if not completely nothing to do with it; it is much more similar to an apple falling on Newton’s head which became a catalyst for perceptive/cognitive shift, therefore liberating the mind and triggering the creative process. Of course, sometimes it may be due to the need of artist’s need to “store” or impose his emotions on a potential recipient. Personally, I think this should be avoided. In any case, once again we return to the accuracy and efficiency anchored in biology, but dynamically changing depending on the characteristics of the creator. They form the base from which one can derive all the aesthetic canons’ foundations being developed in various cultures, the same way as various species of organisms evolved in corresponding ecosystems. Personally, I think aesthetics is crucial for art as well as for almost every aspect of human life. In the end we are animals and it is the lure and attractiveness -in their broadest sense- that make us step out of the safety-zone of our control and assurance and therefore transgress our limits. So how do we find or musical syringe? Neuroaesthetics and study of the evolution of designs gives us some substantial answers, but firstly we need to decide what do we expect (if anything) from tomorrow’s music.