lagartija wrote: ↑
Fri Dec 22, 2017 7:27 pm
Note: by the time I typed this up on my phone’s tiny keyboard and posted it, two others have posted similar thoughts!
Funny that you mention the old masters in painting, Mark. That was the thought that came into my mind as I read Andrei’s post...that education in the arts has long been based on a model of copying a master, both in music and the visual arts.
Many young painters were told to go to a museum and paint one of the paintings by an old master. The idea is that by doing this, it forces you to observe acutely how the master managed to get the effect you see. In doing this, you explore different techniques and discover how to achieve such an effect. This is supposed to give you the skills to express exactly your own vision and communicate that to others. Having done this myself, I can say that by close observation, I did learn how a master controlled light and composition to give a particular effect. This did not at all prevent me from developing my own artistic voice and aesthetic.
In Music, I look at it the same way. If I study a piece of music, in the beginning I hear certain things . As I play it, I find there are things in it that I didn’t hear (when it was played by someone else)...perhaps because my ear is not yet developed well enough or I was not observant enough, or perhaps the performer’s interpretation did not emphasize it as something important. Nevertheless, by trying to copy a particular performance, I have developed a better understanding of what they were doing to get a particular effect or as I study the score, a better idea of how the composer created something that I found intriguing or compelling.
Copying is an educational tool. The difficulty is when in the process you step beyond observation and copying to express yourself.
Nearly all human endeavor has this difficulty. When I studied astrophysics, I learned to use the tools to solve problems. But as a student, they were problems that had already been solved, not problems with unknown answers. To be a master in the field (in theoretical astrophysics), you must be so skillful with those tools, that you can use them to solve problems where the answers are not yet known. I came to the realization that I would never become as masterful as needed and knew that I would never be a theorist. (So I built instrumentation instead.)
In music, I doubt I have enough time left in my life to learn the skills and tools of music well enough to compose anything other than relatively simple tunes, but that doesn’t stop me from hearing a piece that someone else composed and showing you what it means to me with my life’s experience. The skills it would take for me to express myself in musical terms with my own music just aren’t there...just as they aren’t in astrophysics. Is this a flaw in my education? I don’t think so. Some people have better fluency in some creative modes rather than others. In the visual arts, I can express myself fully because I have all the skills I need and the facility to learn any new ones I need to get just the effect I want. I am fluent in that creative mode. The fact that my education in visual arts may have started out as “copying a master” and academic study, did not in any way prevent me from getting to the point of expressing myself with my own artistic voice.
In astrophysics or in music, I don’t have enough mastery to fully express myself...not because of the training, but because of my own limitations.
In astrophysics, I was still able to make a significant contribution in spite of that lack of mastery. In music...who knows? I’ve only studied music for about ten years. Not very long! Still a student...copying the masters to understand how they did it.