Tim Hinck's thoughts on music and life- There is a lady living across the street from me. She is dying of cancer. I have never seen anyone so full of life and energy. She loves to work outside in the flowers and grass of her yard. I can see her savoring every sunny day... the way she stands up from planting a flower bulb with such satisfaction on her face and claps the dirt from her gloves with resolution. I want to be like that lady.

Location: Schalkwijk, Utrecht, Netherlands

Monday, January 29, 2007

Replies to an eMail discussion

Ryan Litchfield:
Maybe what we are seeking is something unique.  Maybe something close to perfection, but still unique. If it was possible to play a perfect symphony, then it would be possible for two groups of people to play a perfect symphony. This would therefore make the symphony generic.  It would no longer be unique. 

Yes, I originally started with the idea that "uniqueness" is the true definition of beauty... but then of course, something very crass and ordinary can also be unique. but what is it about the "unique" performance of a particular orchestra that makes it truly beautiful? is it just because they played the right notes? (of course not) is it because they played with passion and made nice phrasing? (even a marching band can play with passion). No, somehow this orchestra was able to convey some deep emotion... present a clear window into the human psyche... Like you said: they were able to stir something deep in the gut of the audience. That is the best definition of beauty that i can come up with: effective communication of a human emotion.

I don't know what we are looking for in aesthetics, perhaps it is yet another heart felt facet from another human being to add to our collection.  Maybe we are always looking for something original. Or maybe something that is more original, closer to the original.

Well, actually the basic idea of aesthetics as I understand it is pretty straight-forward... in aesthetic we are looking for the reasons why we find something pleasing (or beautiful). So my question is: is beauty just something that makes us feel "warm and fuzzy" or is it something deeper... the only good answer I can find so far is that something is truly beautiful when it touches someone else deeply and in a positive way.

"Beauty" is another beast entirely.  There are very few, if any, universals in the realm of beauty.  Some may like the look of a sunset, but others have been born blind, so a sunset is meaningless to them.  Some may enjoy the scent of perfume, while others may acquire a headache from smelling the same scent.  Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, or in the brain, rather. 

I think that this is an important example in support of my idea that beauty has more to do with effective communication than anything else: every sentient being should probably (i have no reference for this) be able to experience beauty. And so what about a person born blind and deaf? What would he/she find beautiful?? Beauty is probably connected most closely with two things: effective communication and positive emotions. Thus, I imagine that a deaf/blind person would find something beautiful if it "communicated" as much positive sensory information as possible... a warm hug, sex, well-prepared food....

Because I feel that perfect beauty can't exist, I don't think the question of why perfection is not always beautiful to us is a very valid one, or at least not a very useful one. 

Perhaps not valid in discussing "perfect beauty", but wouldn't it be quite useful in discussing the tools to make something MORE beautiful. Or it could also be valid and useful in redefining our aims and goals as artists.

The brain seeks balance, but balance does not have to mean symmetry, as the rule of thirds and the golden mean are anything but symmetrical.  Furthermore, one's aesthetic sense is largely the result of the things to which one has been exposed during one's past life.  Some of these things elicit pleasureable memories and feelings, and some, not-so-pleasant, but possibly still nostalgic ones.  Exposure to some things will allow a person to appreciate other things more than if they had not been previously exposed, thereby enhancing their aesthetic sensibilities. 

But there do seem to be certain aesthetic values that are shared by large groups of people (across cultural boundaries even) that must prove that aesthetic sense is not only the result of past experiences. Unless you are talking about the more general "human experiences" that are shared by all. In that case I would agree that these experiences probably shape our aesthetic sense as humans.

I guess that's because I still would think (maybe you do too...?) that there are still many times where the more perfect a version of something, the more beautiful (I imagine enjoying a piece played by a better instrument at least as well, if not sometimes better, than one of the more rudimentary ones like you mentioned) it may be to me, at least. 

yes, music played on a more advanced instrument WOULD sound more complex.... or more perfect... or maybe more pleasing; but does this mean it is more beautiful??? we just discussed that beauty isn't all about being PLEASED, because even Baroque paintings of Jesus suffering on the Cross, or even modern paintings such as Picasso's 'Guernica' would probably not be called 'pleasing'. But many call them beautiful.
well, anyway, i'm not into dissecting something until it's meaningless and boring... i just think that if people thought about beauty in another way it could have a big impact on the world:
- audiences wouldn't walk out of a concert just because the music isn't something they are used to... not "pretty" or "soothing". Music doesn't have to be pretty or soothing to be beautiful!! but that is something that we are not taught from childhood.
- people would appreciate fine things like good food, or good art... not because they look "pretty" but they would search for deeper meaning... try to connect with the emotions of the artist. that's really all we are after as artist. we want to communicate something with others... something from the heart.

that is true beauty.


Any other takers on this topic?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Bouldering near Paris

Ricardo climbing at the amazing boulders of Fontainebleau...

Ricardo and I discussiong the philosophical ramifications of a boulder (or maybe the noisy Russian prostitutes next door to our hotel room)...

This is the hardest boulder I have ever done at Bleau...

...Jesse doing one of the several 7a boulder problems he did on this trip

My feet swinging around on a roof problem...

...Ricardo and some typical Fontainebleau sloping holds

Jesse on "levitation" 7a+...

After three years of hating Paris, I'm beginning to see some of it's beauty. Jesse and I walking towards the Arc...

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

on God and Aesthetics (part II)

This is an older post that I have rewritten, as my thoughts have developed a lot on the topic. If you read my last post on this topic, you know that I have this theory that beauty is not just striving for perfection, but rather taking something "perfect" and varying it slightly. It is in those variations that true beauty lies. But since the earlier post on 'beauty' I have also been toying with another angle. Perhaps beauty should not be something for which an artist should strive at all. Or perhaps beauty is just not what most people take it for. Example: I recently had a long discussion with an artist friend of mine. He had concerns about a piece of music I had written... said it left him with a "dark" feeling, and that made it hard for him to enjoy. (He didn't say it but others, I can imagine, would say that it just wasn't "beautiful").

This got me to thinking that maybe we have developed a skewed view of what is beautiful. If by "beautiful" we mean "warm and cozy and light-hearted", then we are definitely off track. I feel that beauty is found in any succesful attempt at true expression. I know this seems a little risky, but bear with me. I don't mean that just having something to say, and saying it as strongly as possible is beautiful, but I believe that true beauty is found less in the thing/idea being portrayed than in the manner in which it is portrayed. My artist friend who esteems Picasso's 'Guernica' as one of his favorite paintings finds that it really sparks his imagination. I think that most people would agree that the war-time horrors depicted in that painting are anything but conventionally beautiful. However, the brilliant way in which the subject matter is depicted is so genius, so effective, and yes, even so beautiful. Think of Michelangelo's 'Battle of Cascina' or 'Martyrdom of Paul'. The incredible beauty of these paintings has very little to do with their subject matter, (if anything, the intensity of the subject strengthens the power of the paintings).

Part 2: "GOD"
The traditional christian view would say that God is equivalent with absolute beauty and that beauty is essentially that which encapsulates the essence of love, peace, joy, etc. ... "whatever is holy, lovely, of good report..." I would challenge any good christian to take a closer look at "God's own masterpieces": his brutal, jagged mountain peaks; his giant sea creatures; the bleak emptiness of deep space... I think that any christian who bases his/her ideals of beauty on the image of a wine-and-roses God not only has a skewed perception of beauty, but perhaps also a misguided view of their god and his artistic tastes. A christian would say that God's greatest masterpiece is man who, although he may bear some atributes of his creator, is still a far cry from a god. Why then would God create a masterpiece that is frail flesh and bones, with the ability and main function of reproducing itself into an endless number of variants of God's image. If this is God's idea of beauty, than most christians have a lot to learn about aesthetics. Beauty wasn't achieved by perfection in copying God's image exactly, but in the endless numbers of variations that will be created as long as the human race continues to populate the Earth. God didn't give his masterpiece the ability to sing as perfectly as the angels, but perhaps there is more beauty to be found in flesh-and-bone trying desperately to emulate the voices of heaven. Maybe all the voices of heaven were just a little too perfect for God's refined sensibilities.