posted on May, 18 2010 @ 11:48 AM
I wrestle with this because of the insane levels of context that are included within each human expression, and even before the environmental and
circumstantial context is applied.
When we look at the entire list of individual things that went into the actual music that was created – the mind of the violinist, his hands and
fingers upon the strings, the bow drawn across those strings, the strings vibrating and resonating against the bridge of the violin itself which
caused the wood to resonate, the sound waves pushing through the open air of the hall, the reverberation of the walls and ceiling that smoothed out
the harsh tone of the raw sound of the strings and made it sing as it did, the ears of the listeners, and finally, the minds of each listener as the
sound became music as interpreted by each mind – we have to accept that if we took away any single stage of this long list of contributing aspects,
the result would cause the resulting music to either be radically altered, or destroyed entirely.
Now, let's say that when the violinist struck his first note of the evening, that note was a C#, but to simply state that it was a C# is to lose
sight of all that this single note presented to this particular moment. This C# note did not exist in a vacuum. It didn’t just appear from
nowhere. As the first note of a composed musical piece, it was written by a composer. This composer lives, or once lived, a life that contributed to
the notion of placing that note in that specific part of the composition. In fact, it stands to reason that the composer spent some time and thought
about which note to place in that specific part of the piece, and likely spent considerable time in thought about how long the note should last, how
loud it should be played, and whether it should be physically manipulated by the musician in such a way as to provide it a specific expressiveness at
any point within its existence as a performed musical note.
That composer provided a certain level of intellectual context to that note, and that context provided a distinction to that specific note that it
does not share with any other C# note in that or any other musical piece. The identity of that note was affected by that very specific context, and
made that note unique before it was even performed.
Now, the creation of this note’s singular identity didn’t end there.
The violinist who struck that note also added context to that specific note on that specific evening. The piece before that violinist was not
composed by him, but the creation of the note as music – the physical interpretation of that note by way of the violin as a sound generation tool
– belongs solely to the violinist. What flowed through the hands and fingers of that violinist as he struck that C# note, was all that had been his
life to that point in time, and the whole of it caused that C# to suddenly belong to him as an artist who had taken the composer’s suggestion and
had had his way with it – for good or ill, as the case may be. The years of study, practice, and personal sacrifice; the career that he’s had, or
still envisions; the surging elements within his own body and brain; all coming together as he hit that first C# and made it his own. This is the
intellectual context that the violinist provided, which combined with the context that the composer had already provided, to further distinguish this
first C# note of the piece under examination.
But there is more.
This particular violin is a rare and valuable model that was produced by a celebrated craftsman who died hundreds of years ago, and since its
creation, it has been played by a long line of brilliant musicians who have carefully preserved its beauty, its tone and its overall utility. The
very fact of its unique excellence contributed its own form of context to the sound of this first note, as well as to the intellectual context
provided by the violinist as he honored this rare treasure with his committed effort to produce that sound. This circumstantial context – somewhat
different in nature than the intellectual context of two artists in tangential collaboration on the piece, but still extremely powerful – was yet
another factor that contributed to all that came together to further distinguish this first C# of this particular musical piece.
Of course, if we include the environmental aspects of the concert venue itself, the relative humidity of the atmosphere and its impact on the
violin’s tone and the “carry” of the notes within the hall, and whether people were buzzing among themselves as this note was struck, or even if
the hall was full or whether people were still finding their seats, then we can continue to add contextual qualifications until we run out of atoms
and quarks and strings to pick over.
The point of this has been to describe the nature of context, and I think you have what you need to understand what I mean when I refer to context,
whether I mean intellectual context or just plain old circumstantial context of any kind. In artistic expression, the human being manipulates and is
manipulated by this coming-together of context, and it impacts the art that is produced.
Therefore, is the art its own event, or is it the creation of the artist. Or is it the creation of the artist in congress with the moment, as well as
with all the contributing contextual aspects that infested the moment with identity? Is all art collaborative?