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 Forum index » Artists » Beth Anderson
Article: Beauty is Revolution - by Beth Anderson
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mosc
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 06, 2004 10:03 am    Post subject: Article: Beauty is Revolution - by Beth Anderson Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

In order to help kickoff her new artist's forum on electro-music.com, Beth
Anderson
is allowing us to reprint Beauty Is Revolution, an article she
wrote in the early 1980s.


BEAUTY IS REVOLUTION
by Beth Anderson

To make something beautiful is revolutionary (not low class, not easy, not
a sign of low intelligence). Last year I wrote an article about my approach
to music for "Heresies". In it, I said that "the relationship of feminism
to my work and the evolution of the form of my music are in violent flux".
They still are, but the dust is settling.

The idea that beauty is revolution is a revelation to me. I once believed
that the concept of the music was more important than the sound, that the
politics of the notation was more important than the time limits of the
rehersals and therefore, more important than the sound of the
performance... that the numerological equivalents for the instruments were
the determining factor for instrumentation... that pitch must be explicit
and rhythm improvised... that if the composer says it is so, two string
players and two lighting technicians can be a string quartet... that any
composition must be consistent throughout and that internal change in the
piece showed lack of compositional concentration... that more than three
chords in one piece meant confusion or commercial music or both... and on
and on. It is a very liberating feeling to come back to my childhood
definition of composition, i.e., writing down inspirations. I've
rediscovered the part of my brain that can't decode anything, that can't
add, that can't work from a verbalized concept, that doesn't care about
stylish notation, that makes melodies that have pitch and rhythm, that
doesn't know anything about zen eternity and gets bored and changes, that
isn't worried about being commercial or avant-garde or serial or any other
little category. Beauty is enough.

And of course, it's a problem too. At different times in my life I have
looked out and decided that Grieg's music was the most beautiful.. that
Schoenberg's music was the most beautiful... that Cage's music was the most
beautiful.. . that Oliveros's music was the most beautiful. Now I feel as
if my own music is the most beautiful, and the feeling is one of having
jumped off the cliff with my wings on. I don't know if they are going to
work, but it's too late now. This deciding about the "most beautiful" is
necessary and I think composers make decisions like this all the time. How
else could they choose a style to work in and stick with it for fifty years?

Beauty means perfect to me, but it also has an additional meaning having to
do with being pleasurable, rather than painful. Beauty is hard to make. The
making is painful, and involves a certain amount of craft, and a relaxation
of the part of the brain that says, "Don't write that. X wrote those four
notes in 1542 or 1979 or 1825 or whatever period you are worried about
being influenced by." You have to say yes to what comes out. You can scoot
it around a bit, but the basic material that jumps out of you is you. If
you say, "That sounds like a raisin commercial." you are telling yourself
you are trashy. You are allowing others to tell you what real art is.

Real music soars above class society. Musical careers have a lot to do with
class and money, but they don't influence society's acceptance of the
music, after the stuff has been broad-cast to the people. Composers are
people who create music--not concepts, not machines, not posters, not
parties. It takes just as much (maybe more) intelligence to invent a
synthesizer or to make a crowd-pleasing poster for your concert, as it does
to make beautiful music. But doing those other activities does not make you
a composer, though they may add to your career or savings account. Being a
composer of playable music still does not guarantee beauty. That's a
problem you have to solve for yourself.

Beauty got a bad name some time after the first world war. Musical craft
(ear training, orchestration, the real reasons for voice leading, etc.) was
hardly even taught in the 1960's and 70's, probably because of the revolt
against a tradition that could allow the war in Vietnam to happen. Beauty
seemed a low value in relation to life itself. But life goes on and
ugliness and lack of skills and nihilism are no excuse. The destruction of
the world would not improve social conditions, and making painful, ugly
music will not redistribute the wealth.

Beauty is a revolution of the spirit. The euphony of the animating
principle of humanity has the revolutionary power of healing, expanding,
and revitalizing. Life is worth living and beauty is worth making and, in
relation to current attitudes, these ancient ideas are radical. They are
capable of making certain people swoon. If you think beauty is
counter-revolutionary, ask yourself if you think mutilation improves the
state of mind of the depressed.


Copyright 1980 Beth Anderson

Last edited by mosc on Sat Mar 06, 2004 9:18 pm; edited 1 time in total
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elektro80
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 06, 2004 11:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

This is close to a manifesto. Great stuff. I see this one is copyrighted 1980. Does this mean this was published the same year?
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beand



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 06, 2004 2:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Yes it was published in the American Women Composers' Journal in 1980 I think. It was also quoted in Interview Magazine and I think Ear Magazine reprinted it. AWCJ and EM don't currently exist.

It was a manifesto. I was trying to explain my aesthetic/point of view.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 06, 2004 5:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

interesting... something that needed to be stated...and resonates with things i have been thinking about as well...and somewhat harkens back to that thread where we were discussing the 'purposes' of art

thanks

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 07, 2004 9:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I should go look at that thread. Sounds interesting.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 07, 2004 9:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

beand wrote:
I should go look at that thread. Sounds interesting.

I think he is referring to this: http://electro-music.com/forum/topic-1430.html
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