Some thoughts on art/music/entertainment

(A “Note” I put on facebook in 2010)

These quotes are to me not answers but hints, starting points of paths…objects of reflection…tests/revealers of what I think…ideas to be further developed..some are mainly to react against…
Comments very welcome!


A work of art comes from the fact that the author is what he is. It has nothing to do with the fact that people want what they want. – Wilde

Whereas entertainment has a lot to do with what people want…

No great artist ever see things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist… The only portraits in which one believes are portraits where there is very little of the sitter, & a very great deal of the artist. …It is style that makes us believe in a thing – nothing but style. Most of our modern portrait painters are doomed to absolute oblivion. They never paint what they see. They paint what the public sees, & the public never sees anything. – Wilde

Can music really be cleanly divided into Art and Entertainment??

…must we not distinguish between ‘artiste’ & ‘artist’: the one who enables us to forget what we do not want to remember, & the other who enables us to remember what we do not want to forget? – E. Stuart Bates, INSIDE OUT: An Introduction to Autobiography

Perhaps we take the philosophy of life of an artwork seriously, while entertainment is “just entertainment” – of no great significance or meaning, just a pleasurable way to pass the time?

Music is whatever you listen to with the intention of listening to music. – Luciano Berio

The same piece of music can be heard as entertainment or as art..if listened to as a work of art, it IS art.
What is it to listen to something as (mere) entertainment? Entertainment is whatever you experience with the expectation of just being entertained?!


Art is a lie that makes us realise the truth. – Picasso

What is this truth? this lie?

In writing plays, one attempts first to describe facts as they really are, but in so doing so one writes things which are not true, in the interest of art… literary composition should have stylisation; this makes it art, & is what delights men’s minds. – Chikamatsu Monzaemon

Is it MY truth, my way of seeing the world?…embodying my beliefs, understandings, tastes, preferences, judgements, world-view…for any way is someone’s way…(“tell a story”, they say – your own..)

“This is MY way; where is yours?” – thus i answered those who asked me “the way”. For THE way – that does not exist. – Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, III, 11

The attraction of imperfection.- Here I see a poet who, like many a human being, is more attractive by virtue of his imperfections than he is by all the things that grew to completion & perfection under his hands. Indeed, he owes his advantages & fame much more to his ultimate incapacity than to his ample strength. His works never wholly express what he would like to express & what he would like to have seen: it seems as if he had had the foretaste of a vision & never the vision itself; but a tremendous lust for this vision remains in his soul, & it is from this that he derives his equally tremendous eloquence of desire & craving. By virtue of his lust he lifts his listeners above his work & all mere “works” & lends them wings to soar as high as listeners had never soared. Then, having themselves been transformed into poets & seers, they lavish admiration upon the creator of their happiness, as if he had led them immediately to the vision of what was for him the holiest & ultimate – as if he had attained his goal & had really seen & communicated his vision. His fame benefits from the fact that he never reached his goal. – Nietzsche, The Joyous Science, II, 79

What is a poet? An unhappy man who hides deep anguish in his heart, but whose lips are so formed that when the sigh & cry pass through them, it sounds like lovely music. His fate is like that of those unfortunates who were slowly tortured by a gentle fire in Phalaris’s bull; their cries could not reach the tyrant’s ears to cause him dismay, to him they sounded like sweet music. And people flock around the poet & say: ‘Sing again soon’ – that is, ‘May new sufferings torment your soul but your lips must be fashioned as before, for the cry would only frighten us, but the music, that is blissful.’ And the critics come forward & say: ‘That’s the way, that’s how the rules of aesthetics say it should be done.’ – Kierkegaard, Either/Or

The poet is the only liberator. Through his poems the ideal can become for a moment real; “one golden word leaps out immortal…& sweetly torments us with invitations to its own inaccessible homes.” He alone can in any sense abdicate a manifold & duplex life. “And this is the reward,” Emerson tells his poet; “that the ideal shall be real to thee, & the impressions of the actual world shall fall like summer rain, copious, but not troublesome to thy invulnerable essence.” – S. Whicher, Freedom & Fate


Art is the kingdom of the child: and anyone who wants to enter that kingdom must enter it as a child. Hence we can say that not only is every child an artist, but every artist is a child. The so-called artistic temperament is the necessary psychological condition of all art: but the artistic temperament is the very opposite of the temperament necessary in a grown-up man of the world. The artistic temperament is the child’s temperament. Its marks are a certain emotional instability, a tendency to live for the moment, an unreflective and uncalculating selfishness which does not deny but simply ignores the claims of other people to consideration, a blindness to even one’s own real interests when they conflict with the impulse of the moment, an incapacity for thinking and acting in a consistent and businesslike way. In general, it is the temperament of one who does not face facts and imagines instead of thinking.
The artistic temperament has its drawbacks, and these are generally recognized. We all know that artists tend to be moody, impolite, unpractical, and even vicious: precisely as a child is. It is no good blaming the artist for these faults and at the same time expecting him to go on being an artist. They are the price he pays for his artistic work. If you civilize him he ceases to be an artist. – RG Collingwood, The Principles of Art

…few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun… The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye & the heart of the child. – Emerson, Nature


Though he may have been deprived of wealth, social mobility & political power, the common man quickly learned to compensate for his impotence in those arenas by channeling his energies instead into the one arena in which he did seem paramount, culture, & into the one form of culture that was truly his own, entertainment. Nothing could have been more democratic than entertainment. Everyone had access to it, the majority ruled in it, & no one’s aesthetic judgement of it was deemed better than anyone else’s. – Neil Gabler, Life: The Movie, p30


…art is to [children and savages] a life in which they are immersed as in a flood of warm water which bears in its course passive and effortless organisms. A grown and civilised man achieves aesthetic experience by the effort of deliberating shutting out other competing interests; he refuses to look at a given object historically or scientifically, and will see it aesthetically. Hence, for the civilized man, art has become a somewhat alien thing and difficult of approach; he bewails lost romance and thinks of the aesthetic experience as something that died with his dead childhood, or exalts beauty into a far-away goal to which some day a difficult uphill road may lead him. But art is difficult for him not because it is intrinsically difficult, but because his entire education has been designed to wean him from it; it is far away not because it is on the heights of the spiritual life, but because it is in the depths. Art is the foundation, the soil, the womb and night of the spirit; all experience issues forth from it and rests upon it; all education begins with it; all religion, all science, are as it were specialized and peculiar modifications of it. – Collingwood, Speculum Mentis, III 1


What art does do is to communicate to us an attitude, an attitude taken up by the artist consequent upon his perceptions… It is characteristic of the greatest art that the attitude it communicates to us is felt by us to be valid, to be the reaction to a more subtle & comprehensive contact with reality than we can normally make.
– J W N Sullivan (1927)

We don’t understand music, it understands us. – Adorno

…the aim of art is simply to create a mood. – Wilde, The Critic as Artist, II

The states in which we infuse a transfiguration & fullness into things & poetize about them until they reflect back our fullness & joy in life: sexuality; intoxication; feasting; spring; victory over an enemy; mockery; bravado; cruelty; the ecstasy of religious feeling. Three elements principally: sexuality, intoxication, cruelty – all belonging to the oldest festal joys of mankind, all also preponderate in the the early “artist”.
Conversely, when we encounter things that display this transfiguration & fullness, the animal responds with an excitation of those spheres in which all those pleasurable states are situated – & a blending of these very delicate nuances of animal well-being & desires constitutes the aesthetic state. – Nietzsche, The Will to Power, p422

That making perfect, seeing as perfect, which characterises the cerebral system bursting with sexual energy…The demand for art & beauty is an indirect demand for the ecstasies of sexuality communicated to the brain. – Nietzsche, The Will to Power, p424

Art is the living and concrete proof that man is capable of restoring consciously, and thus on the plane of meaning, the union of sense, need, impulse and action characteristic of the live creature. – Dewey, Art as Experience, p25

You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul. – Shaw

Mere enthusiasm is the all in all. – William Blake

The poets are thus liberating gods…They are free, & they make free. – Emerson, The Poet


In my daily work I incline to repeat my old steps & do not believe in remedial force, in the power of change & reform. But some Petrarch or Ariosto, filled with the new wine of his imagination, writes me an ode or a brisk romance, full of daring thoughts & action. He smites & arouses me with his shrill tones, breaks up my whole chain of habits, & I open my eye on my own possibilities. He claps wings to the sides of all the solid old lumber of the world, & I am capable once more of choosing a straight path in theory & practice. – Emerson

[Music:] …our utopia calling to itself… – Bloch


What we play is life. – Louis Armstrong

A musician is a philosopher and a scientist and he uses the science of music to project the particular philosophy he subscribes to. – Lester Young

This is no book; who touches this, touches a man. – Walt Whitman

Is it then impossible to present a view as true, by which one can live, without also presenting it as a view that is true necessarily, by which all must live? – A. Nehamas, Nietzsche: Life as Literature, p36

Artworks, scientific theories, religious views, moral, political, & philosophical systems embody & carry forth a paricular individual’s picture or interpretation of the world, the values, & the preferences through which that individual can best live and flourish. The greatest among such individuals suceed in establishing their pictures and preferences as THE world within which, and THE values by means of which other people come to live their lives, often unaware that these are not given facts but the products or interpretations of someone else. – A. Nehamas, Nietzsche: Life as Literature, p28

The greatest artists create the demands of a future day & audience; others, & entertainers, fulfill today’s.

A great writer creates a world of his own & his readers are proud to live in it. – Cyril Connolly

The critic…is as much concerned with the health of the mind as any doctor with the health of the body. To set up as a critic is to set up as a judge of values…For the arts are inevitably & quite apart from any intentions of the artist an appraisal of existence. Matthew Arnold, when he said that poetry is a criticism of life, was saying something so obvious that it is constantly overlooked. The artist is concerned with the record & perpetuation of the experiences which seem to him most worth having. …he is also the man who is most likely to have experiences of value to record. He is the point at which the growth of the mind shows itself. – I.A. Richards, The Principles of Literary Criticism, p61

I venture to believe that any theory of art is inevitably implicated in some philosophy of life, & that the only question is whether the artist is conscious or unconscious of the theory he is acting upon. – Walter Lippmann, A Preface To Morals, p107

– Can anyone be fully conscious of the theory they are acting upon/living? I don’t think so.

The true function of the writer in relation to mankind is continually to say what most men think or feel without realizing it. Mediocre writers say only what everyone would have said… – Lichtenberg


Imagination is…sometimes truer than reality… – Hazlitt, On Novelty & Familiarity

In one’s prose reflections one may be legitimately occupied with ideals, whereas in the writing of verse one can only deal with actuality. – TS Eliot

There is a higher work for Art than the arts. They are abortive births of an imperfect or vitiated instinct. Art is the need to create; but…Nothing less than the creation of man & nature is its end. – Emerson

Esthetic experience is imaginative. This fact, in connection with a false idea of the nature of imagination, has obscured the larger fact that all conscious experience has of necessity some degree of imaginative quality. – Dewey, Art as Experience

The genius is a genius by the first look he casts on any object. Is his eye creative? – Emerson, Representative Men

The conception that objects have fixed & unalterable values is precisely the prejudice from which art emancipates us. – Dewey, Art as Experience, p95

Artworks provide new ways of structuring our experience in terms of these natural dimensions. Works of art provide new experiential gestalts &, therefore, new coherences. From the experientialist point of view, art is, in general, a matter of imaginative rationality & a means of creating new realities.
Aesthetic experience is thus not limited to the official art world. It can occur in any aspect of our everyday lives – whenever we take note of, or create for ourselves, new coherences that are not part of our conventionalized mode of perception or thought. – Lakoff/Johnson, Metaphors We Live By, p236

There is nothing that will cure the senses but the soul, and there is nothing that will cure the soul but the senses. – Wilde

…the artist as such does not first determine the facts & then convert them into art. The raw material out of which he selects & adapts what will serve his purpose is an imaginative, not a factual, raw material. We say that the artist holds up the mirror to nature, or that he transcribes what he has seen in real life; but this is mere error if it means that the artist bases his work on the ascertaining and remembering of historical facts. The real life or the nature to which he holds up his mirror is not the world of science or history, but the world as imaginatively apprehended, the world of imagination. Everybody knows that there is one frame of mind in which one regards an object scientifically, & another in which one regards it aesthetically; the pathologist is as blind to the beauty of the stained section which he is examining as the landscape-painter to the optical conditions of the sunset; & we pass over from one of these attitudes to the other by a deliberate & familiar act of will. But the aesthetic & the scientific attitudes are not merely different attitudes toward the same object, namely a sunset. The object is different. The scientist “sees” in the sunset a concrete embodiment of certain scientific laws; the artist “sees” in it a harmonious pattern of colours. The very word “see” is ambiguous; with the scientist it means primarily to think, with the artist primarily to imagine, and the world of imagination which is the object confronting the artist’s mind when he looks at a sunset is not present to the scientist’s mind at all. Indeed, the scientist as such is committed to the denial of its existence; for beauty is the secret of the universe or nothing, & for the scientist it is certainly not the secret of the universe.
Thus the artist’s world is not a world of facts or laws, it is a world of imaginations. He is all made of fantasy, and the world in which he is interested is a world made of the stuff of dreams. For him, from his point of view, these dreams are neither real nor unreal; that is a distinction of which he knows nothing. They are simply dreamt. The artist as such does not know what the word reality means: that is to say, he does not perform that act which we call assertion or judgement. His apparent statements are not statements, for they state nothing; they are not expressions, for they express no thought. They do not express his imaginations, for they are his imaginations. What he imagines is simply those fantasies which compose the work of art. – Collingwood, Speculum Mentis, III 1, p62-3


…one of the essential traits of the artist is that he is born an experimenter. Without this trait he becomes a poor or a good academician. The artist is compelled to be an experimenter because he has to express an intensely individualized experience through means & materials that belong to the common & public world. This problem cannot be solved once for all. It is met in every new work undertaken. Otherwise an artist repeats himself & becomes esthetically dead. – Dewey, Art as Experience, p144

The perceiver as well as the artist has to perceive, meet & overcome problems; otherwise, appreciation is transient & overweighted with sentiment. For, in order to perceive esthetically, he must remake his past experiences so that they can enter integrally into a new pattern. He cannot dismiss his past experiences nor can he dwell among them as they have been in the past.
[An artist] cares about the end-result as a completion of what goes before & not because of its conformity or lack of conformity with a ready-made antecedent scheme… Like the scientific inquirer, he permits the subject-matter of his perception in connection with the problems it presents to determine the issue, instead of insisting upon its agreement with a conclusion decided upon in advance. – Dewey, Art as Experience, p138-9

There is no rule for expression. It is got at solely by feeling. …Rules are applicable to abstractions, but expression is concrete & individual. – Hazlitt, On Genius & Common Sense


One of the most common developments in the history of art is that the popular art of one era, which is denounced & solidly excluded from proper social & intellectual life, becomes the fine art of the next. So when the novel first appeared…it was taken to be an absolutely horrible genre. Coleridge attacked it : compared to Shakespeare, he said, reading novels is not “pass-time but kill-time”. But in Elizabethan times, there was Henry Prynne, saying that Shakespeare attracts & creates only “ruffians & adulterers.” Now Shakespeare is as close to the divine as any human being could ever be. The same thing happened with cinema, jazz, photography, rock-&-roll. What is popular, & therefore pronounced harmful in one period is transformed into a standard of beauty a short while later. – Alexander Nehemas, interview

Hmm..popular art vs fine art…same as popular music vs “art music” distinction i guess. Maybe it IS just a matter of time…just snobbery then? Sounds the same as:

Romanticism is the art of presenting people with the literary works which are capable of affording them the greatest possible pleasure, in the present state of their customs & beliefs.
Classicism, on the other hand, presents them with the literature that gave the greatest possible pleasure to their great-grandfathers. – Stendhal


There are two ways of disliking art… One is to dislike it. The other, to like it rationally… If one loves Art at all, one must love it beyond all other things in the world, & against such love, the reason, if one listened to it, would cry out. There is nothing sane about the worship of beauty. It is too splendid to be sane. Those of whose lives it forms the dominant note will always seem to the world to be pure visionaries. – Wilde

Works of art are of an infinite loneliness & with nothing to be so little reached as with criticism. Only love can grasp & hold & fairly judge them. – Rilke

A musicologist is a man who can read music but cannot hear it. – Sir Thomas Beecham

…to be unanalysable, &, therefore, save by the poet, indescribable, is the aim of art & the fact of beauty. – E. F. Carritt, Theory of Beauty, p271

A critic cannot be fair in the ordinary sense of the word. It is only about things that do not interest one that one can give a really unbiased opinion. – Wilde, The Critic as Artist


A man’s style is his mind’s voice. – Emerson

…it is style alone by which posterity will judge of a great work, for an author can have nothing truly his own but his style. – Disraeli

Every other master we know by the things which he shows us,
Only the master of style rather by what he withholds. – Goethe

I have no sympathy with the composer who produces works according to pre-conceived formulas or theories. Or with the composer who writes in a certain style because it is the fashion to do so. Great music has never been produced in that way – & I dare say it never will.
…I say again & again that music must first & foremost be loved; it must come from the heart & must be directed to the heart. Otherwise, it cannot hope to be lasting, indestructible art.
…it is my own pet belief that, if you have something important to say, you don’t need a new language in which to say it. The old language is sufficiently rich & resourceful. The young composers make the mistake of believing that you achieve originality through technique. Actually, the only originality worth achieving is that which comes from substance. A composer can use all the accepted tools of composition & produce a work far different in style & subject matter from any ever produced, because he has put into music his own personality & experiences. – Rachmaninov

The artist, like the rest of us, is torn by various desires competing within himself. But, unlike the rest of us, he makes each of those desires into an element for use in his art. Then he seeks to synthesise his elements all together to form a style. The sign of a successful synthesis is a unified & unique style plain for all to recognise. So it is that a successful style can seem to its audience full of indefinably familiar things – & at the same time invested with godlike power of ‘understanding’ that is far indeed from the daily round. The process by which a man has forged such a unity is the most profound & most exalted of human stories. – J. N. Moore’s biography of Elgar

One’s defects, weaknesses, become useful as elements of one’s style…

A man must thank his defects, & stand in some terror of his talents. A transcendental talent draws so largely on his forces, as to lame him; a defect pays him revenues on the other side. – Emerson, Conduct of Life, p27


Even a proverb is no proverb to you till your Life has illustrated it. – Keats

What can we see, read, acquire, but ourselves? – Emerson

We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are. – Anais Nin

The ear says more than any tongue – WS Graham

The sun may shine, or a galaxy of suns; you will get no more light than your eye will hold. What can Plato or Newton teach, if you are deaf or incapable? A mind does not receive truth as a chest receives jewels that are put into it, but as the stomach takes up food into the system. It is no longer food, but flesh, & is assimilated. The appetite & the power of digestion measure our right to knowledge. He has it who can use it. – Emerson, Natural History of Intellect

Ultimately, the individual derives the values of its acts from itself; because it has to interpret in a quite individual way even the words it has inherited. Its interpretation of a formula at least is personal, even if it does not create a formula; as an interpreter, the individual is still creative. – Nietzsche, The Will to Power, 767.

…it is not language which expresses but the man who uses or understands it…the man who appreciates a picture or a mountain aesthetically is in his degree an artist. None of these things is beautiful to him unless he expresses in it his feelings or, which…is the same thing, it expresses, that is, reveals them to him. The writer of a poem expresses his passion in it. It expresses the passion to me, but only on condition that I have some such passion to express. The truth is that in reading a poem I express myself in it, I find words for what I have already been, & so first come fully to know it. …Language only has a meaning for me when in hearing it I express myself in it. – E. F. Carritt, Theory of Beauty, p182-3

…those parts of the work of art which he could not in some sort have invented for himself will pass by him unseen…one never sees anything in anybody’s work but what one brings to it, & it is as true of art as of nature that
we receive but what we give,
And in our life alone doth Nature live;
Ours is her wedding-garment, ours her shroud. – Collingwood, Speculum Mentis, p68


Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal. – TS Eliot

To do the opposite of something is also a form of imitation, namely an imitation of its opposite. – Lichtenberg

Great men are more distinguished by range and extent, than by originality. If we require the originality which consists in weaving, like a spider, their web from their own bowels; in finding clay, and making bricks, and building the house; no great men are original. Nor does valuable originality consist in unlikeness to other men. The hero is in the press of knights, and the thick of events; and, seeing what men want, and sharing their desire, he adds the needful length of sight and of arm, to come to the desired point. The greatest genius is the most indebted man. A poet is no rattlebrain, saying what comes uppermost and, because he says everything, saying, at last, something good; but a heart in unison with his time and country. There is nothing whimsical and fantastic in his production, but sweet and sad, earnest, freighted with the weightiest convictions, and pointed with the most determined aim which any man or class knows of in his times. – Emerson, Shakspeare; or, The Poet


We are hardly conscious of anything metaphorical when we say of one picture or of a story that it is dead, & of another that it has life. To explain just what we mean when we say this, is not easy. Yet the consciousness that one thing is limp, that another has the heavy inertness of inanimate things, while another seems to move from within, arises spontaneously. There must be something in the object that instigates it… The living being is characterized by having a past & a present; having them as possessions of the present, not just externally. And I suggest that it is precisely when we get from an art product the feeling of dealing with a career, a history, perceived at a particular point of its development, that we have the impression of life. That which is dead does not extend into the past nor arouse any interest in what is to come. – Dewey, Art as Experience, p176

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