[LAU] Art's suitability for anything

James Harkins jamshark70 at gmail.com
Sat Aug 17 05:18:52 UTC 2013

Ralf wrote:

> There's a difference between art and tools released for the public. Art,
excepted of the crap on the radio, should not suit to anything.

Interesting comment, off topic from the original thread so I'll spawn a new

I don't entirely agree that art should not suit to anything. I come to feel
more and more that art doesn't exist without a subculture, and people make
art/music/fashion etc to appeal to one or more subcultures. There are
possible exceptions (Harry Partsch, perhaps) but I'd argue those are
extremely rare.

Many western classical composers in the early twentieth century argued for
"music for its own sake" -- music that captures a glimpse of the Eternal
and thus whose artistic merit transcends human relationships. But of
course, it's all tap-room banter without a community of musicians and
listeners who agree with that idea! So this was just another musical
culture (which sought to pretend that it was beyond culture).

This is, of course, not to say that artists must obey subcultural
expectations and have no autonomy. Most (western) musical subcultures value
surprise (except the aforementioned generic radio pop). I think artistic
autonomy is always in a balance, or tension, with the artist's chosen
scene. One of the decisions an artist has to make is where to position
herself on the continuum between participating in a musical community
(adhering to its standards) and critiquing its norms or expanding the
subculture's boundaries. Many are not aware that this is a choice -- hence
the bands or singers who sound just like everybody else in the genre. But
part of my point is that participating in a musical culture is not "less
than" breaking molds.

All this is from a western perspective, of course. Some non-European
musical cultures (I'm thinking of the amazing music of the Aka pygmies)
seem to place no value at all on individual autonomy in music... that is,
autonomy is not a universal value.

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