Thursday, March 26, 2009
Slobbing out on the sofa, slightly the worse-for-wear because of my special grape nerve medicine, I ended up watching a sober (unlike me) adult (ditto) documentary about Hokusai instead of my more usual Pimp My Ride for once. Through the mild fug of post-teaching exhaustion, there was suddenly a discussion of how Hokusai's technique (and I include here not the usual print of Hokusai's Great Wave but one made years earlier with more or less the same view of OFuji-san, but without the frantic humans to give it scale and facing in the opposite direction, which gives it a completely different feel) with his use of repetitive visual units both in details and structural layout was not unlike the contemporary concept of fractals. And with that, I suddenly made one on my usual chaotic lateral and-not-terribly-original leaps to think of Cage's use of small number series (4:3:2:3:4) to generate both global (overall structure) and local events in his piece First Construction (in Metal) about which I had had to gabble for two hours at my second year guys earlier in the day. I'll bet they are so glad we didn't start on fractals.
That would have almost been as bad as my experience yesterday of trying to explain stasis in minimalist compositions and contrasting it with an 19th century Romantic narrative-based aesthetic by getting spun off on a riff that eventually ended up with me discussing my imminent arrival in the warm-ish nether regions according to most Western Judeo-Christian narratives versus the never-ending enso of many Asian systems, while a group of open-day 18-year-old six-formers embarrassedly stared at their shoes. They were embarrassed for me... Uh-uh - not going there again.
For my own composing, of course, anything quite so organized is liable to break down as rapidly as a 30-year-old Italian motorbike's electrics, something I have considerable experience of. But I take comfort in Adorno's dictum about intentional objects ("art") in that they are not necessarily aesthetically validated by "instrumental" behavior; i.e. the mimicking of physical processes modeled and tested through reductive scientific reasoning. You can breathe a sigh of relief right there and get on with stuff..
I always start off with the best of intentions, but find myself soon wandering around grabbing at shiny sounds.... but we are so not talking synaesthesia here.