I am feeling philosophical this evening as the year winds down. At the risk of stomping a common topic into the ground, consider this: I sit on my back porch and develop songs that express how I am feeling; play the new music for a few hours; and no one hears it except for me. Was the music I created Art? Did it communicate anything to anyone? This question is different from the ‘tree falling in the forest’ argument because I heard the music I created. The music actually existed as I created it. So the question is, if no one else heard it, can I call it Art? Can I declare something I created Art just because I created it and I alone heard it?
I recall Emily Dickenson, a poet, who created a litany of poems that remained undiscovered until long after her death. In fact, no one read the Art (except for her) until she died. When did it become Art? If her home had burned down (before the poetry was located), would her poetry have still be Art? Who decided her poetry was Art? How could they decide it was art if they had not read her poems? Did her poetry become Art the moment she created the poems or did it become Art when others read her poetry?
How about Jackson Pollock’s paintings? A guy decides to drip paint on a very large canvas. He takes pleasure in the color combinations and controlling the nature of the drips. Yet, much of the paint drop placement is random (within the flinging and targeted dripping that goes with his technique). People come along and viewed his work, when he first started, they said he was not understood but he did have something new and fresh. No one was sure if his work was Art. He kept at the effort refining and perfecting his style while working in barns and low budget settings. He struggled and coaxed the drops of paint into patterns that had meaning for him. People kept viewing his paintings and gradually his work was accepted (art dealers started giving credence to his work and placed a price take on the Art). When did Pollock’s work become Art?
Go to any city of substance, wander into the very small clubs and coffee shops. Find singer songwriters playing original music and ask yourself, “Is their performance Art?” What if they are playing cover tunes (somebody else’s music), is their performance Art? Is it Art because the music resonates and moves the listener? How many people must like the music for the music to be classified as Art?
What if I became passionate about the music and changed my living habits so I can go to every show this musician delivers for the rest of my life? What if I just feel good for a while and then never hear this musician again for the duration of my life. Is there a difference between these two encounters when measuring the impact of the music on my life and determining if the music is Art assuming I use the metric of ‘impact’ to define Art?