Consciousness and how it got to be that way

Friday, July 2, 2010

Why Modern Music Is Too Hard, But Visual Art Isn't

An interesting piece in the New York Times discusses why much of the last century's classical composition and dense prose may never find an audience, but at the same time visual modern art presents a more effortlessly coherent experience. The definition for complexity in music is given as non-redundant events per unit-time, but I'm not sure how they're measuring pattern recognition challenge in visual art and prose. The money quote in the article has to do with why it's much easier for the un-initiated to enjoy a Pollock piece:
The word "time" is central to [critic ]Mr. Lerdahl's argument, for it explains why an equally complicated painting like Pollock's "Autumn Rhythm" appeals to viewers who find the music of Mr. Boulez or the prose of Joyce hopelessly offputting. Unlike "Finnegans Wake," which consists of 628 closely packed pages that take weeks to read, the splattery tangles and swirls of "Autumn Rhythm" (which hangs in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art) can be experienced in a single glance. Is that enough time to see everything Pollock put into "Autumn Rhythm"? No, but it's long enough for the painting to make a strong and meaningful impression on the viewer.

In a word, the constraints of sensory memory, determined by the sensory modality which is being used (hearing, vision, language, etc.)

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