Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Understanding the Invisible Art

[In the late 1980s and early 90s, Albert Fuller conceived and produced a television pilot called "Understanding the Invisible Art" in the hope it might provide an outlet for Helicon on PBS. Alas it didn't, but the materials he created give a wonderful distillation of his thoughts. The following is an excerpt from the introduction. More to come.]

General introduction to program:

Those of us who toil in the field of music know that we are somehow different from artists of other disciplines. The eye is involved in painting . . . in sculpture . . . in dance, but music depends entirely on the ear. It's an invisible art. That invisible essence of music is nowhere better described than in the poem "Peter Quince and the Clavier" by Wallace Stevens, the 20th-century American Poet.

Just as my fingers on these keys
Make music, so the selfsame sounds
On my spirit make a music, too.

Music is feeling, then, not sound;
And thus it is that what I feel,
Here in this room, desiring you,

Thinking of your blue-shadowed silk,
Is music.

It is not then just a coincidence that Galileo, considered the founder of modern science, was himself the son of a musician. Just at the beginning of the 17th century, when the new musical style of opera was created in Italy, the world received Galileo's convincing notion that there are invisible worlds "vital to our being, that cannot be comprehended by our unaided senses"

Since then music has grown into the vast world that we know, that can be viewed as the invisibly expressed art of the imagination. Today at the end of the 20th century, all our new technological tools show us ever newer realities that our other senses cannot perceive. Therefore we are not surprised to learn that music has always been a window into the unconscious mind.

We cannot be surprised as well with the notion that the most important musical instrument of this entire century was invented over a hundred years ago by Thomas Edison. That instrument is, of course, the phonograph.

The invisible power of electricity has allowed us to make the acquaintance of and to experience through recording ever increasing amounts of music of the past. Doing this unveils whole new, thrilling layers of our psychic inheritance.

Many of us musicians have found that by using the instruments and techniques of playing them that the composers of the music had in mind, we musicians can come even closer to the psychic thrill of perceiving something from the composers' unconscious minds. When you add to that the social contexts of the past, that is the art, the politics, the behavior of society, the ways people danced, the architecture and literature that they held dear, when we focus on all that, then we feel enabled to experience our music in a way that makes us feel still closer to the composer.

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