The Irrelevance of Beauty

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by David A. Goldfarb, Apr 8, 2007.

  1. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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  2. eddym

    eddym Member

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    Absolutely fascinating article!! Makes me understand why there's not much of a market for an unknown fine art photographer.
     
  3. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    The results aren't really surprising given the circumstances and timing. It's also a matter of focus. Just as Bell was focused on his performance, his accidental audience had their own individual focuses that took priority.
     
  4. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    David

    Thanks for the link. Makes me wonder what would happen if some of the leading modern photographers, whose images grace museums now, had to hang their work in subway stops instead.

    I can imagine a Jeff Wall lightbox in an airport concourse next to all the other lightboxes advertising vacations, cell phones, and computers. NO ONE would notice.

    Not that I think Jeff Wall's work can move people the way Joshua Bell can.
     
  5. David Brown

    David Brown Member

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    Well, in all fairness to my fellow federal workers in DC, the overwhelming majority of the street musicians that play at DC Metro stops are just bloody awful! (In my experience...) That Bell should have been noticed because he was the exception may be true, but expectations are pretty low.

    I was amazed, for instance, when I was lucky to visit Munich a couple of years ago, at the level of musicianship of the many street players there. (mostly college student age) However, I think that the small, but constant, crowds that they drew were mostly tourists. This, also, would not be the case at L'Enfant Plaza.

    There is a slightly better level of music in San Francisco and New York, and the best I've heard has been in Boston. But nothing in the US is like Munich, or Rome, or London, or ...

    As for photography, I also know that both context and audience are important. Some people just want "pretty pictures", and no amount of "artistry" will be noticed.
     
  6. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    Interesting read.

    Maybe they could next try decorating an airport concourse with Jeff Wall's work and see if anyone responds to them out of context.
     
  7. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    I should have checked for posts between the time I read the link and made my post!

    I agree that competing with people's "hurries" is an issue here. Should done a lunch hour in a plaza or evening rush hour when people's hurryings are more discretionary.
     
  8. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    It'd be interesting to know what would have happened if Bell had been identified as the virtuoso he is: mounted, matted, and framed if you will. As with the Kelly analogy, labels and context matter perhaps far more than we think they do. It's additionally disheartening to realize that Bell was ignored performing on an instrument of long recognized, traditional familiarity, and playing music that, though 'serious', is nonetheless also familiar. No wonder we're led around by our noses by critics and gallerists who tell us what matters in art, and who we should be looking at.

    Thanks, David, for the very interesting link
     
  9. Shmoo

    Shmoo Member

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    Thank you for the link, David. It's sad that we don't seem to think we have the time to stop and listen to a brilliant musician, or view a phenomenal piece of art, or even read a well-written piece of literature whereever it is. In this "hurry up" world of ours, we often let the label-givers and context-builders the say in what we listen to, look at, and read.
     
  10. AZLF

    AZLF Member

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    I detected more than a slight whiff of elitism in the article myself. There was no mention of the fact that had the reporters involved with this article been among the uninformed passing crowd they probably would have reacted about the same.

    But they did get one thing right. Or near right.

    Context is important.

    Americans are inundated with images and music. There have been countless photographs used for advertising which had they been introduced in the medium of the art exhibit would be proclaimed to be peerless examples of the photographic art. We are blasted 24/7 with music of every stripe including classical played faultlessly behind the words of the tv/radio ad. For our own protection we must narrow our visual and audio perceptions less we be struck dumb and motionless before our day has gone far.

    Had they put a sign behind Mr. Bell explaining that this world class musician was playing even for private reasons the people passing by would have had a clue that they were not being assaulted by yet one more attempt to implant a selling suggestion. Or bum some change.

    As a university trained musician who has played classical and can recognize expertise when I hear it I doubt I would have stopped myself.

    Why?

    Because I am not a big fan of the solo violin. I prefer at least a string quartet within the genre but in truth classical is not the style of music that most moves me. I respect classical music and the people who play it . I have a pretty good idea of what they have to do to play the music well. But it is not what rings my bell. Also the majority of street musicians I see and hear are not on the street as a sociological experiment. They are there because their previous actions have led them to the point that they must, "sing for their supper" as it were and I don't find the venue particularly appealing.

    And not everyone has an ear for music no matter what the type or quality of execution. I have a friend who is gifted in both speaking and writing. He loves what he does (he has his own weekly 4 hr radio program ) in which he has nationally known guests as well as solo editorial comment on the happenings of the day. He is tireless in his research for an interview and will schedule an interview with an author only after he has read the author's work. Not all radio hosts do as odd as it may seem.

    And he has an ear of tin. That's not to say he does not enjoy some forms of music. But he cannot distinguish a good player from a bad one nor whether the music is being played in tune or out.

    The article while interesting reeks with the condescension of of the self appointed elite. "Look what happens when you grace the banal existence of the base with an example of the sublime".

    Titter, titter.
     
  11. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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  12. Tony Egan

    Tony Egan Subscriber

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    Thanks for the link David.
    A thought-provoking experiment in context and art.
     
  13. Poco

    Poco Member

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    Titter, titter indeed.
     
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  15. wfwhitaker

    wfwhitaker Member

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    I'm simply going to have to start riding the Metro more often...
     
  16. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    I thought this was a pretty neat article.

    I think it proves that well known statement that "beauty is in the eye (or ear) of the beholder".

    CP
     
  17. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    Nevertheless, had I been passing by and heard the Chaccone being played like that I would have stopped and listened until he finished, no matter how pressing my business. My hat is off to Mr. Bell for a good sport.

    I wish it had been Union Station instead, through which I pass twice a day, every day.
     
  18. Poco

    Poco Member

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    I met my girlfriend in college by way of her being a street violinist in NYC. I was at NYU and she'd been out of Julliard for a couple years. After hearing her play the first time I insisted she tell me where/when she'd play next, and things progressed from there. She wasn't much to look at, but neither was I and all she had to do was play the cadenza from Beethoven's violin concerto and any interest that may have been flagging was immediately refocused.

    Talent, like intelligence, is an aphrodisiac.
     
  19. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    Fascinating link. Disturbing in a way, too. Imagine, risking a Strad on the streets of Washington DC! It's difficult to imagine that he didn't draw a crowd, considering his talent and those selections. Doing that gig near quitting time might have been different: Even in the nation's capitol there must be many people with a strong work ethic and a rigid schedule. Given more freedom many might have paused.
     
  20. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Nahhh, at 5:00 p.m. in Washington, D.C., everyone goes to happy hour.
     
  21. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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  22. highpeak

    highpeak Member

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    Well said , Chuck.

    David, very interesting article to read. It's takes a lot for people to stop and listen on the rush hour. Even people with good taste of music, they just simply pre-occupied in their daily routine.

    Alex W.
     
  23. DBP

    DBP Member

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    I would agree that the experiment would have been more revealing at the evening rush hour, where fewer people are constrained by having to be somewhere at a precise time. I also wonder how many people noticed the music, during the minute or so they were in earshot, but dodged the reporter. As for the lottery ticket buyers, are we really surprised that people who think buying a lottery ticket matters don't appreciate beauty?

    But the title of this thread raises a further question, if we believe Keats. If "beauty is truth, truth beauty", and beauty is irrelevant, doesn't it naturally follow that truth is irrelevant? And do we finally have an answer for Pilate, in time for Easter?
     
  24. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear DBP,

    What is Easter?

    (with apologies to Pontius, P.)

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  25. DBP

    DBP Member

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    My first conversation of the day was started by an overly religious friend greeting me by phone with "the Lord has risen". I hadn't.
     
  26. Loose Gravel

    Loose Gravel Member

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    Americans know nothing of the arts -- it is the first thing to be cut from education and the last class to be added as an elective. Had my father not been an artist, I fear I would have passed the violinist, too.