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« Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI) | Main | Opening Up The East Coast for Drilling - Is Obama Crazy? »

March 29, 2010


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So true. It is unfortunate that the very departments that preserve and promote creativity; music,literature,painting, dance and the like, are slated to be cut from school budgets because of the current economic crisis. In the future, it will be up to individuals and not schools to pass on this type of knowledge probably through apprenticeships. This is the primary way these subjects used to be taught.

Robin Datta

Some might consider saving a few luthiers
so that others can draw beauty out of their creations
And then ofcourse there is the extensive accumulated creations of the past.


I'm not convinced that man's artistic achievements are of any objective value. The raw stuff of art is just patterns of stimuli on our senses that we interpret against a context of arbitrary rules and our own imaginations. Even within our species, art of another culture from our own is just 'strange' - just think of Chinese music created using a different musical scale. Taking it one step further, if I view Beethoven's Fifth on the screen of an oscilloscope I'm afraid it doesn't do much for me, and listening to a scan of the Mona Lisa likewise.

Yes, great art really stirs our souls, but so does great drugs, apparently.


I think the question of what art is, is a very interesting one. I'm never quite sure what it is that other people are getting from it. I know very ordinary people who claim to read something into the 'installations' in the 'Tate Modern' gallery in London. I don't believe them.

Elgar is reputed to have said "The British don't like music; they just love the noise it makes." - which sort of ties in with my earlier remark about art vs. drugs, and possibly religion.

Personally, there are pieces of music, and types of music, that I love. But what is it about them that I love? In some cases I suspect that it is an association with something else. For example, do I love the music of Vaughan Williams in itself, or the fact that it reminds me of childhood as the music that accompanied the black and white British films of the 1950s that used to be on television?

I do not get any pleasure from the music of Stockhausen (although giving pleasure may not be a prerequisite of good art) and I cannot help but feel that someone who claims to be enjoying it or reads something deep into it is either pretentious or deluding themself! And when the same person also claims to see the mannered, prissy music of Mozart (which no doubt was radical in another time and in the context of a set of musical 'rules' long since abandoned) as a masterpiece it makes me wonder what is wrong with me.

At the same time I find myself to be incredibly adventurous musically, compared to 99% of my acquaintances. I have an insatiable appetite for new stuff wherever it may come from. I find that most people like to listen to the music that was around when they were students, or to new music that they are 'told to like' by heavy marketing, airplay etc. Personally I don't know anyone who, like me, sifts through tracks by unsigned artists on the internet, or obscure psychedelia from the 60s, looking for my next 'fix' - but only liking a small proportion of it.


Was at the same show! I took my folks (late 70s) for my Dad's birthday.

The Wailin' Jennys were my favorite -- incredible, tight harmonies over simple accompaniment. As a singer myself, they did unbelievable things with those harmonies... still processing, days later.

Anyway just an awesome show!

I worry about what / who replaces GK when he's gone. He's a national treasure.

George Mobus


In my ideal world, everyone would attend the College of Aesthetics to learn about art, music, etc.; to experience them. Everyone would have an opportunity to be creative in various ways. But we know that not everyone will be supremely creative in the way great composers, artists, and writers are. So I would see those who show the talent would be given the opportunity to learn more about how to produce their art form while the rest of us would have an opportunity to appreciate their work.

Just as I think it is a mistake to try to make everyone take lots of math and science in the form of trying to make them into mathematicians and scientists, which ends up scaring away even some of those who could have become so and spoils the rest for having an appreciation of science, I think too much emphasis on performance in an artistic talent (like a required drawing class) also has a stunting effect on would-be performers and appreciators.

I'm sorry to see the aesthetics minimized in schools, but based on some of the learning objectives I've seen put out for some of these classes where the assumption is that you can teach talent, I am not sorry if those go. Aesthetic expression needs to be voluntary and spontaneous with positive reward feedback spurring those with talent to go further in developing their skills. Save the appreciation classes yes. And then you might have money to fund the performance classes for the few who are really talented and motivated.

Just my immediate thoughts!


Have any ideas about how to select the best and preserve them for the future? I'd hate to lose Beethoven et. al.


Well you know what they say? To each their own!


Too right about Keillor! The problem of preserving anything stored in media (film, CDs, etc.) is a real challenge. One day I imagine we will be back to much of culture being transmitted via memories and word-of-mouth. But I hope we can find ways to save just a bit, a sample, of all of the great works.



"Well you know what they say? To each their own!"

I actually find that quite an interesting comment. After writing a piece on the value of mankind's cultural achievements and the necessity to save what we can, you then, in effect, imply that no artistic or cultural artefact has any more value than any other. It suggests that there is no discussion to be had on 'art'.

Personally I would love to know why or how people choose the art they are passionate about, but the answer seems to be off limits! It cannot be discussed. It is what it is. It is beyond question.


Another fine post George. Our humanity-our uniqueness-I believe resides in being able to(dimly)sense the wholeness of what we really are; the whole self-evolving universe. This sense of something-greater-than-we-are is amplified and resonates via art and music. Throughout history this feeling has been misdirected (and abused) into all sorts of theologies, myths, cults and ideologies but the basic pure feeling of awe and mystery is something we all grasp now and again-until we fall into the stupor of everyday living!

You said;
"I refuse to believe that evolution has been a waste of time. I know our species has failed. But all species fail, eventually. That is evolution after all. Nothing stays the same forever. Why should it?"

This is a recurring theme in my thoughts and something which cant be easily addressed in a few paragraphs. one absolutly key fact in my opinion is that civilisation arose simultaneously in several areas of the world so it was somehow written into the story of humanity and not some random tragic accident. The millions of victims, human and non-humans through the ages tempt us into a blind nihilistic hatred of civilisation-especially industrial civilisation. The idea that separation and forgetting of being- alive implicit in its 'progress' are somehow part of a plan stretches credibility until you think of the metaphor of the hopelesssly addicted drug victim who will never change until they reach rock bottom and near death....but until that moment they will flail about desperately seeking the 'fix' (a technological fix all too familar in our 21st century).
Perhaps the gift can be eventually separated from the curse but that would entail a organisation of society which we would barely recognise as a society.
I'm struggling to explain consisly because trains of thought diverge and converge on various aspects of your blogs -one day I'll pop them is a longer e-mail.

George Mobus


" then, in effect, imply that no artistic or cultural artefact has any more value than any other."

Caution. Do not project your interpretation!

I was only commenting on the fact that aesthetic value is a personal value. How we decide on what gets saved and such I will leave to those facing doing so. All I am trying to say here is that we cannot give up on one of the key elements that gives our species humanity, an appreciation of aesthetics.

You raise an interesting point re: why do people choose what they choose. But then go on to imply there is, perhaps, some objective way to do so (or am I projecting ;^) I think this would be an interesting investigation for psychology. But I'm not sure it is particularly important to my point. The fact is, that we, some of our Homo predecessors and co-inhabitants of this planet have found something of value in artistic expression. This is one of the signature aspects of humanness. I believe that it is a part of both our heritage and brain evolution that must be preserved (perhaps enhanced) in any future versions of the human condition.


George Mobus


"I'm struggling to explain consisly because trains of thought diverge and converge on various aspects of your blogs -one day I'll pop them is a longer e-mail."

I hope you do. I sense some great ideas in formation!


Miroslav Miskovic

Scientific-technological revolution and the historical consciousness.The way how the mankind developed through last 40 000 years,expressed in terms of semiotics.

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