Slaying Dragons #37 – Art?

John Watkinson considers what is Art…

Sound as used for entertainment purposes necessarily has an artistic content, yet sound itself is transient and can only be recorded or manipulated with suitable technology. I think it follows that a good audio engineer must have some technical knowledge to support his creativity.

That led me to thinking about art in a broader sense, which in turn caused me to wonder what it was, or even if it took several forms. Perhaps owing to the highly subjective nature of the subject, I cannot expect complete agreement, but it seems to me that a work of pure art is one whose sole purpose is to stimulate the senses and nothing more is expected of it. Obvious examples are paintings and sculptures, which however pleasing their appearance may be, don’t do anything tangible, other than keeping the wolf from the artist’s door, prior to lockdown, at least.

There is no doubt that songwriting is an art, somewhat underlined by the fact that there is no algorithm to produce a hit record. But apart from the protest song, music is meant to be entertaining and the extent to which it succeeds in that is also subjective.

Daily life does, however, demand different types of artifact. Starting with buildings, ships, cars, aircraft and going all the way down to the humble tin-opener; all of these serve a purpose. For all of these items, and many others, fitness for purpose can be measured in various objective ways. Functioning devices can be measured in the way the intended function is performed. Often that function defines to some extent the form that the item takes.

Alongside serving their purpose, by their very existence they must have an appearance that will be assessed by onlookers. In comparison with the pure artist who has almost complete freedom, the designer of a functioning artifact is placed under more constraints and I am of the view that…

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