12 December 2012

On Giving a Shit

About aestheticism, I just wrote, "fine with me, by the way, if we not try too hard to explain it..." I should say (and this is overdue here) that there's a real danger in not wanting to even attempt explanations of very important issues. I've written similar things here many times, but never, I want reader(s) to know, without some apprehension. I have a few different reasons for this isolated instance of anti-intellectualism: one was the realization that a certain sense of mystery is essential to how I experience my very favorite musical works; another is having developed a deep distrust of reverse engineering in art, or at least of that particular kind of reverse engineering musicians have so fallen in love with which works backward, whether philosophically or physiologically, from an emotion.

It's not difficult to imagine, for me at least, that sometime before the Earth falls into the Sun, medical research and technology will enable an understanding of the biological basis of aesthetics which is unfathomable to us today, and that artificial intelligences will be created which achieve a human level of aesthetic synthesis based in whole or part on this new understanding. Many will say that this truly ends art (which I suppose it could if you subscribe to a social theory of art), while others will simply deny that it could ever happen. My feeling, though, is that as long as I still had something nice to listen to, I'd be just as happy, and since we've thus far managed to collectively create way too many nice things to listen to without knowing exactly how much of which neurotransmitter is released when we hear a Hindemithian stretto versus a Lutoslawskian cloud, I would posit that future generations have a very slim chance of going wanting.

I'm less sure that we need to pursue these things than I am that someone will pursue them, and that they are, given enough time, achievable. Mostly, though, I'm ambivalent (may I flatter myself, actually, by saying uncharacteristically ambivalent?), and that's the source of some similarly ambivalent statements that I probably wouldn't make about most any other field of intellectual endeavor. All else being equal, we should always want to know more, but we can't know everything, and thankfully (this is the larger point here) we don't always need to. Indeed, I think there is very little necessity left in our over-saturated art world; that is, the work already exists: all kinds of art for all kinds people (though access, of course, is another matter).

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