Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Spontaneous or planned?

I read that Ravi Shankar, a famous Indian sitar artist, attended a concert by Rostropovich, the great cellist.  Asked afterwards his opinion of the performance, Shankar said that it sounded like the cellist had played that piece before. 

I listened to a Great Course by Bill Messenger on "The Elements of Jazz".  He explained that during the birth years of jazz, young people in the South heard the music and liked it.  At a dance, the usual band was asked to play jazz but the result was entirely unsuccessful.  So local black musicians who were known to be excellent were called in and they played just what was desired.

Our guide on the recent tour of Pueblos and Navaho lands prayed aloud each morning before our bus took off.  Her prayers to traditional Navaho powers and forces, such as the four sacred directions, marked by the Navahos by four sacred mountains, were lovely.  Several of us were interested in the prayers and asked for copies.  She told us that she composed each prayer the night before and that copying or distributing them would be inappropriate religiously.


This business of unique, on-the-spot creations versus careful and deliberate reproduction of a composition, such as a Mozart aria, is interesting to me.  On the molecular level, no two things are identical.  In fact, merely sitting in slightly different places makes two indistinguishable drinking glasses a little different.  The two glasses get used by different hands, are handled a little more or a little less, so do not have identical existences.  My wife is a potter and aspires to be able to make ceramic creations that look totally uniform.  But so far, each of at least 250 creations has been unique.

The question of what is more laudable, a perfect execution of a pattern or score or blueprint more than once, or a creation that is completely one of a kind interests me.  It may be a somewhat arbitrary choice as to which to give higher praise.  I am reminded of Huston Smith's comment that in some religions in the world, it is wrong to enter a religious building with shoes on and in some, it is wrong not to wear shoes.  Similarly, with covering your head or not covering it.

I guess part of which way an art goes is dependent on local ability to record.  Without the technology to record a voice or a play, the situation of quite different from being able to listen or watch a performance repeatedly.  Before the invention of a way to write music down, there would have been only human memory to remember what a song was.  The emerging subject of 3D printing can make it possible to create a pattern used by a 3D printer to make extremely similar objects.

In writing this blog, I have tried to write each post anew and not to repeat myself.  I am confident that if I took one of the over 1400 posts in this blog and reposted it without identifying it as a repeat, most readers would not realize it was not its first appearance.  I am sure that the value of posts and the skill of expression in them varies so maybe sometime, I'll try reposting one of the better ones.  Rereading a book or watching a favorite movie over again are possibilities so maybe I will use a post over.

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