I want to minimize the revolutionary images, the superficial tensions that are projected onto composers like Varése and Antheil, they need not to be made into mavericks or rebels—its simply not true (entirely) or helpful when listening/understanding their music. When looking through their words, one will encounter plenty of strange and seemingly eccentric information, but plenty that is mundane and not rebellious. Consider Edgard Varése in regards to Amériques “This composition is the interpretation of the mood, a piece of pure music absolutely unrelated to the noise of modern life which some critics have read into the composition”(Ouellette, 57). So, the composer appears both unreliable and sincere in his attempts to create new music with new sound. My point in minimizing the revolutionary image is mostly for the sake of dropping pretension an unrealistic standard in which we understand art. Modernist, and men like Varése are Agents/representations of change (yes a small distinction), rather than forces of change. There is something Pseudo-democratic in the nature of Art; like language (speech) Art is largely consensual, and exists always outside of the subject. Perhaps Artist anticipates just as much as they shape cultural perceptions.
As we have mentioned in class, these composer’s and their music exist in a timeline of a musical tradition. I reject the idea of revolution and paradigm shift, at least in terms of the individual piece if music or performance—the subject is always over determined by the critic and the audience. Their ability to understand the piece of music is evidence enough, meaning that change is always anticipated by the conditions that give rise to the cultural movement or product. For Varése “To be modern is to be natural, an interpreter of the spirit of your own time. I can assure you I am not straining after the unusual”(Ouellette, 57). Varése seems to be quite aware of how unremarkable his position is, as his revolution of sound and noise in merely a manifestation of the natural development of music. He is merely accessing the technology and sounds of the world he arrived in (both literally and ontologically). It is difficult to not insert sarcasm or a sense of irony in Varése’s words because: the question of what is natural is implicated in the modernist exploration of noise. What is natural? And how is man’s perception of nature conditioned? These questions extended into the realms of noise and music. What is natural and what is man-made (unnatural); what is music and what is noise?
For this thought, the composer is the: scientist, the cook, the tinkerer and the experimenter. The ideal experiment/preparation will reveal and report a phenomenon that already exists. Science does the best to uncover constants; the only new information is the means of reaching the constancy. The crafter will always arrive at their real state of existence as well as within a system ideology. First we have, raw values of what is going to be manipulated, and then we have the history and context of how things have been used, manipulated/utilized. On the other end of the artist and their Art there is the willing recipient, and producers, Varése like his contemporaries were able to secure patrons as well venues to share their art. Sure, there are conservative and nostalgic forces at work, but these are usual at odds with change and progress.
Mathematics are not the means of exploring new frontiers, so formulas only prove, verify old models of perception. Yet one discovery anticipates the next. Consider “Art’s function is not to prove a formula or an esthetic dogma. Our academic rules were taken out of the living work of former masters. As Debussy has said, works of art make rules but rules do not make works of art. Art exists only as a medium of expression…”(M&M, 185). Varése speaks to the over determination that often occurs as well as the problems with conservative and nostalgic approach to creating art. When a fine piece of work arises, the critic and the audience must systematically establish it’s greatness, to prove a formula for success. In in reality the basis of the artist success includes an array of specific and arbitrary conditions.
How is something both new and completely anticipated (predictable)? This tension is all pointing towards the implication of a work like Amériques and other noisy pieces of music “clearly developed a new way of listening, learning not only to celebrate the noise in music, but also to appreciate the music in noise” I am a little hesitant to celebrate this notion, as we have seen from Fascist zeal and the Marxist criticism, there are clearly consequences and pretentious overtones here. How we get to the noise and how we receive the noise is all subject to highly structured cultural activities. I don’t think we need to celebrate one thing or another rather we need to rigorously explore the tension between noise and music. We still have the music of Varése and Antheil and they are still difficult to listen to. It is not so much about the new worlds of sounds but new questions and conflicts represented in sounds.
Ouellette, Fernand. Edgard Varése. New York: Orion, 1968. Print.