Sunday, December 19, 2010

Melting ears (on Cory Arcangel's two works)

The one I liked was this:


while the one that goes further is this:


Both are fragments of works by Cory Arcangel.
The difference between them is significant. The first one is a joke - it is a repetition, a trick played on the idea of reproduction or universality.
The other one too. But the other one moves towards something else. It provides us with the doubt as to what it should be like. I don't know Schoenberg's op. 11, 3. I might have heard it, but I'm not sure how it sounds. Yet it certainly doesn't sound like these cats. Or does it? What is it about Schoenberg that makes him sound like Schoenberg? And why do we need him to sound like Schoenberg? (Why do we call artists people who interpret in the most faithful way? And no, this is not a rhetorical question. What is it about repetition that still makes it move us aesthetically? And no, any form of the answer "the difference within the repetition" will not satisfy me as long as I keep putting the same piece on my mp3 player and enjoy it beause it is the same, and still appreciate its freshness, not its "difference".) The thing, here, is not just about the cats, it isn't the old elephant-making-oil-paintings trick. It is rather about other possibilities of listening, of paying attention, of defining what you hear. Can we hear the Schoenberg in the original cat videos? Can we hear Bach in the original music versions? The Bach composition, in that sense, says too much - it states a clear correspondence between the original YouTube videos and Bach's work. The second says less: it says "it is out there, but it's hard to say where exactly, and why exactly we would stop there". (And does it while being damn funny). And that's when our ears melt and reconsolidate, they become other ears, and other, and other. We are forced to listen to what might be there, and not what we think is there.
So why do I like the first video more? Maybe because I still enjoy what is there a lot.
Or because I'm not a fan of Schoeberg.


10 comments:

Lutz Eitel said...

Very true. I think the first video works so well because there’s a common way of playing Bach (described in German through the metaphor of the sewing machine) which corresponds well with the endless noodling up and down of scales by guitarists on youtube and elsewhere. And like you say, the cat video doesn’t seem sure where to go. This begins with the choice of opus 11—not necessarily core modernist text, since it still could be seen as using the grand virtuoso gesture (though maybe in subversion). Also, my cat/kid could do stuff like that anyway, so what do we need an artist cutting them up for? I’d prefer if the cuddly cats played Feldman instead and it really were beautiful, that might work. Oh, and for those who don’t like Schönberg, you heartless bastards: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yR94CiqtFLs

Erin said...

As you mentioned, brings up the question of authorship that resurfaces again and again in contemporary art. Reminds me a lot of Canadian artist Patrick Bernatchez who decomposes Bach's work (on multiple levels) and asks his viewers/listeners to contemplate the "death of universality." Potent stuff.

Annette said...

I love the cats on the piano - very cool - thanks for sharing :)

Art of RetroCollage said...

I have a video on my FB page of a cat playing the piano in a duet with a human (on another piano.) So cute!

Chef de Palavar said...

Schoenberg.

Form in serialized meditative quandaries. Thoughtful to meaningless and circled back kcab delcric dna sselgnineam ot lufthgouht. This time softer, more delicate. Brahms played poorly, upside down. Mozart huffing glue as Beethoven grimaces and dances around a stool. Are we ashamed? And I say..... Innovator, Lover, Tennis Player.

Lutz Eitel said...

I’ve since seen the Bach thing in Arcangel’s exhibition at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin. And in "real space" I didn’t much like it. The problem was in the sound: the sources are obviously put through a filter which pulls them closer together soundwise. That didn’t bother me so much on youtube, but when the whole thing is amped up into hall-size proportions, that kind of glossing over the rough elements to still achieve that typical Bach monotone flattened into proper stereo perspective had something very insincere. It was all perfectly balanced, but done the easy way. That applied to the whole installation, btw, expertly crafted with shimmying ikea vitrines marking the sightlines, but nothing to hold the interest except trying out a video game which none of the teenage experts ever got to work. (Though I’m not sure if video games as art are ever supposed to work.)

KWH said...

Koty są cholernie niemuzykalne i nie wiem, co interesującego można zmontować z takiego materiału. Nie podjęłabym się. Może gdyby to był ryś?...
Nawet gdyby rzeczywiście ów kot grał Schoenberga, słuchaczowi nie udałoby się rozpoznać kompozytora z powodu beznadziejnej artykulacji, która niestety jest immanentną cechą kociej techniki gry. Albo raczej wynikiem jej braku.

Musik Mosiah said...

I have played musical instruments for years and I have never included my pets in the music sessions. Should try that one day and see the out come.

Garet Camella said...

I have to agree with the last guy, I've never thought about having my cat help me play the piano in any of my songs... This could definitely be on my list of things to do for my L.P.

unity3d said...

cats are cool:) Sound is good. thanks

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