Music Vs. the other arts

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ichiro
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Music Vs. the other arts

Post by ichiro » Sun Oct 15, 2006 10:24 pm

I know in many ways this is a futile question, but I've always been interested in it and want an opinion:

Is music a deeper or more powerful art as compared to the great literature, great painting, even great film of the world?

Could we take, say a Beethoven Opus 131, and stack it up against Hamlet, or War and Peace, or the Mona Lisa, or Citizen Kane and make any general comparison between these arts?

I can never really answer this, and though I love music and literature deeply, it is hard to seperate their significance as different art forms.

greymouse
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Post by greymouse » Mon Oct 16, 2006 10:25 am

I believe music is greater than the other arts, but I'm not sure why. Using reason alone, it doesn't seem like it should be. I believe music has much more emotional power than all the other arts combined, but maybe this is just my opinion.

Using reason alone, I'd think poetry is the most powerful art because it requires a perfect balance between form and content whereas music is abstract and the composer can focus on form alone (unless it's opera or other text setting). Poetry combines literature and a sort of music so that the content has greater meaning.

But I think music is considerably more powerful. I love the other arts such as paintings and novels as much as the next person, but I think they're like a heap of rubbish compared to beautiful music.

Movies are a tricky issue because they usually include music and people are often drawn to this, but I strongly dislike most movie music. I really wish there were more movies without any music at all.

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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Oct 16, 2006 10:41 am

J.N.W. Sullivan, in his famous little book on Beethoven which is still worthy, thought so, and in fact cited exactly the Opus 131 as the example of it.

The problem is that each of the three major art forms of the West: music, literature, and visual art has its own rules, so it is a bit like apples and oranges. Beethoven could not have changed a measure in Opus 131 without diminishing it, but Shakespear whacked the hell out of his own plays. The late Mozart symphonies would be deprived if a single crucial note were missing and we had to guess at it (as we do in some of the cantatas of Bach), but if the little dog licking up blood in Titian's Flaying of Marsyas were repositioned, would anyone ever notice?

The other problem is that no one is a judge of all art at the same time. I am pretty confident in my musical tastes, perhaps infamously so, and I think also in English literature, because I happen to be a very literate speaker of English. In visual art, I think I can figure out a thing or two, but personally, I can't even draw much more than stick figures, a source of great hilarity to some of my students.

I think that this is a game that must be lost. We are lucky to have art at all, let alone art on the level that we do.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by MaestroDJS » Mon Oct 16, 2006 11:38 am

jbuck919 wrote:The problem is that each of the three major art forms of the West: music, literature, and visual art has its own rules, so it is a bit like apples and oranges. [snip] We are lucky to have art at all, let alone art on the level that we do.
Well said, John. Moreover, when we include non-Western art, the comparisons become even more complex, if not impossible. Far better simply to appreciate the arts for what they are. :)

One of my favorite quotes about art and its place in civilization is by British author and art critic John Ruskin (1819-1900):
Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts, the book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art. Not one of these can be understood unless we read the two others, but of the three the only trustworthy one is the last.
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Brendan

Post by Brendan » Mon Oct 16, 2006 8:55 pm

I'm confident there are some small notes in a Mozart opera or symphony that could be slightly different without significant impact, where other notes would alter the course of the entire piece. Not all words of William are vital, but "To be or not to be: that is the question" would suffer with any alteration whatsoever. Some bits are vital in the structure of compositions, others less so. The little dog in The Flaying of Marsyas may be positioned elsewhere (I tend the think artists compose their visual spaces rather exactly, and that the flow, colour and movement of the painting would indeed be very different, but that's MHO), but the expressions on the faces of the bard and of Apollo lovingly skinning him alive cannot be altered and is a miracle of artistic achievement.

The details of masterpieces contribute to their effect, and may be the difference between the greats and the not-quite-there.

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Post by Ralph » Mon Oct 16, 2006 9:32 pm

I certainly can't compare the different arts. Each meets my needs (and moods) in different ways at different times. I would be bereft intellectually and emotionally if access to any cultural avenue were to be cut off.
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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Oct 16, 2006 10:20 pm

Brendan wrote:I'm confident there are some small notes in a Mozart opera or symphony that could be slightly different without significant impact, where other notes would alter the course of the entire piece. Not all words of William are vital, but "To be or not to be: that is the question" would suffer with any alteration whatsoever. Some bits are vital in the structure of compositions, others less so. The little dog in The Flaying of Marsyas may be positioned elsewhere (I tend the think artists compose their visual spaces rather exactly, and that the flow, colour and movement of the painting would indeed be very different, but that's MHO), but the expressions on the faces of the bard and of Apollo lovingly skinning him alive cannot be altered and is a miracle of artistic achievement.

The details of masterpieces contribute to their effect, and may be the difference between the greats and the not-quite-there.
Of the four great soliloquies in Hamlet, I find the most famous one also the most unmotivated and expendable. Of course, it is a great speach and no one would dream of cutting it.

But, a fellow fan of Marsyas! Many texts on Titian do not even mention this painting, which Titian painted when he was about 80. One problem is that its permanent home is obscure: Kromeriz in the Czech Republic. But I happened to see it at the National Gallery in Washington when it went on tour years ago, and in my opinion it is the greatest painting on canvas, which is saying something.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Oct 17, 2006 1:28 am

greymouse wrote:I believe music is greater than the other arts, but I'm not sure why. Using reason alone, it doesn't seem like it should be. I believe music has much more emotional power than all the other arts combined, but maybe this is just my opinion.
I agree. It's because of the vibrations. Nervous systems can't help but respond.

I like visual art, but I'm much more of an aural type. I might read something and retain it, but the chances are much greater that I will remember what I hear.
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Post by Jack Kelso » Tue Oct 17, 2006 4:15 am

This is a philosophical question.

Sartre postulated that music and drama (plays, opera, ballet, etc.) are based on time principles (unlike painting, sculpture, etc.) and that these are the "greater" of the arts, due to beginning, movement, climax and end. He used Beethoven's Seventh Symphony as an example (any other work would have done as well!).

I also feel that the "movement" principle makes these more expressive and dynamic or "plastic", compared to the "stationary" arts.

But---if I could paint or draw....hmm...

Jack
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Post by Dalibor » Fri Nov 03, 2006 8:29 pm

Jack Kelso wrote:This is a philosophical question.

Sartre postulated that music and drama (plays, opera, ballet, etc.) are based on time principles (unlike painting, sculpture, etc.) and that these are the "greater" of the arts, due to beginning, movement, climax and end.
Anything that Sartre said should be taken with misstrust, sicne the man was simply a liar

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Post by Dalibor » Fri Nov 03, 2006 8:36 pm

I feel that music is the least accademic and the most instinctive of all the arts, not to say the most unserious art. But it is also the most powerfull and truthtfull one. The most emotional and the most mathematical of arts at the same time - it's kind of magic

And when we are at it, I see classical music culture not only as music culture, but as a mixture of a music culture and a strive towards making it into a more serious art than it actually is. I was always irritated with what I see as pretense stemming from the need to make music a very serious matter, a true science. Give me a break. In that process music just becomes less music

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Post by Lance » Fri Nov 03, 2006 10:56 pm

Dalibor wrote:
Jack Kelso wrote:This is a philosophical question.

Sartre postulated that music and drama (plays, opera, ballet, etc.) are based on time principles (unlike painting, sculpture, etc.) and that these are the "greater" of the arts, due to beginning, movement, climax and end.
Anything that Sartre said should be taken with misstrust, sicne the man was simply a liar
My gawd, Dalibor, each of your posts surprises me more and more. For a person who seems to be so open minded on contemporary classical music, and then to make a blatant, bold statement that "the man was simply a liar," may I ask upon what basis you form this kind of opinion? Is this merely your opinion or do you have facts to back up this kind of statement. Do you form your musical opinions in the same way? I've been kind of following your responses to various subjects and find myself scratching my head in disbelief with some of your statements. Given your "authoritative" statements, you are beginning to remind me of someone else who used to lurk amongst us.
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Post by Gary » Sat Nov 04, 2006 6:05 am

Jack Kelso wrote:This is a philosophical question.

Sartre postulated that music and drama (plays, opera, ballet, etc.) are based on time principles (unlike painting, sculpture, etc.) and that these are the "greater" of the arts, due to beginning, movement, climax and end.
Then ballet must rank as the greatest--my favorite form of art, by the way! After all it occurs in both time and space. :)
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Re: Music Vs. the other arts

Post by val » Sat Nov 04, 2006 7:22 am

ichiro

Is music a deeper or more powerful art as compared to the great literature, great painting, even great film of the world?

Music has to do with one of our senses, the hearing. But it also has to do with our reason, although it cannot be expressed in concepts.

I don't believe we can say that music is more or less deeper than other arts. The only art that sometimes gets more close to music is poetry, with the rhythm, the sound of the words (Mallarmé!).

How can we compare Beethoven's Quartet opus 131 with Hamlet or the Zauberberg? It is impossible, in my perspective.
The difference between music and theater, literature and, in a lesser degree, poetry, is in the fact that music doesn't use concepts: it is a form of expression perhaps more "primitive" but also more powerful, because it is far from what we usually call "reality": in fact the world is, for us, a net of concepts with its own reality, a sort of replacement or integration of the immediate sensivity.
Music doesn't need and has not that mediation. It comes directly to us, with no verbal "translation". It is much more emotional, mysterious, and establishes an unique kind of communication between people, not at the more superficial level of the word but going straight to our inner self.

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Music vs. the other arts

Post by J Nguyen » Sat Nov 04, 2006 4:03 pm

I agree with most of the people here that different arts cannot be fairly compared because each art operates on its own set of rules. However, I would say that music is special because it escapes the binds of language and culture and speaks directly to the soul. In the case of instrumental music, people of any religion, ethnic background, or nationality can enjoy and understand it because musical language is universal for it is the language of the soul. In the case of vocal music, one doesn't need to understand the language in which the lyrics are written in order to enjoy the piece. If one were to watch a play, read a novel, listen to a poem in a foreign language then one wouldn't enjoy it at all. I believe music is special because it is the art which speaks directly to the soul.

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Post by Jack Kelso » Mon Nov 06, 2006 1:07 am

Gary wrote:
Jack Kelso wrote:This is a philosophical question.

Sartre postulated that music and drama (plays, opera, ballet, etc.) are based on time principles (unlike painting, sculpture, etc.) and that these are the "greater" of the arts, due to beginning, movement, climax and end.
Then ballet must rank as the greatest--my favorite form of art, by the way! After all it occurs in both time and space. :)
If you so wish, Gary. But a symphony also has a beginning in time, moves from the intro of the 1st mvt thru its various movements until the coda proclaims its "time in space" is concluded. Here, there is vertical as well as horizontal movement.

Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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