Originality

March 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

After giving a concert I was asked by someone “How do you make sure your music is original?”.

When being asked this question there’s an assumption that the work must be interesting as well as original. Place a mosquito in some toothpaste and sprinkle with pepper and you have something that no-one else has ever invented.

It is quite an interesting question particularly as it applies to any art form.

The short answers is to (1) to present a large number of problems and solving them and (2) applying great efforts.

To describe the second point I cannot think of any great work of art that was made lazily or without background knowledge accumulated with great effort. Effort must be exerted, if not while the creating the work then in the past leaving the artist to produce something that those not applying efforts could achieve. The very intricate work of art will, even without many ideas within it, embody the great power of the mankind’s will and this in itself will hold value.

For the first and more important point, ignore the idea of originally to begin with and think instead of making decisions within the art.

While creating their work the artist engages in a feedback mechanism of experimenting/improvising/interfering and  approving/rejecting decisions. By applying decisions more densely within the construction, the artist has a better chance of creating an original and interesting work. Without decisions being made, or without the art being based on problems solved earlier (which have become subconscious to the artist but likely still refreshing to the audience) the art will struggle to hold much value over many years.

If you write about two balls bouncing around on a pool table there are relatively few degrees of freedom. In writing a fictional story (your work of art) about the region around your house you and including your own experiences you are introducing an enormous number of degrees of freedom. Each person on the planet will have a relative unique story.

One needs to add constraints and problems to solve within the work in order to be forced to make decisions. Provided that these decisions are refined then the art will automatically contain an aesthetic. It is the decisions made within the work themselves that are the art and outside of observing these decisions the art has no meaning nor purpose.

The artist who attempts to represent the thoughts of the society around him, to presume that he can understand the varied sense of good taste of the population around him, I imagine will struggle to produce great art. The short tunnel between the observer and the artist’s mind is distorted when the artist creates extra tunnels into the minds of his surrounding population. Empathy is our ability to mirror the feelings of another person. Empathy works best when subject A (audience) observes subject B (artist) directly or (almost as good) B’s most sincere work of art. If subject B tries to represent their empathy to subject C, D, and E, then subject A might find it more difficult to empathise when observing subject B’s work.

For the artist concerned about their work being original, the answer lies primarily in presenting problems within the work and solving them. Secondarily, ensuring that the solutions appeal to themselves and not to another people. Some of the ideas will hopefully be difficult to solve and will generally involve much time. After solving all of these problems the work is automatically original. A work of art is not an object or a sound but a collection of ideas. When this can be understood the artist can create more freely without concern for the originality of their work.

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