Great Artistry requires the ground of disciplinary study. In my case, for example, Great Artistry begins when I commit deeply to my discipline of music composition. It is traditional to use the organizing principle of the Trivium to understand disciplinary study. The Trivium consists of Grammar (the rules), Dialectic (the relationships) and Rhetoric (the representation). So for the discipline of music composition, there exists the Grammar of tone, the Dialectic of harmony, and the Rhetoric of orchestration.
Every discipline can be seen as working on these three levels — of Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric, and successful disciplinary creation, where the artist cuts his teeth, integrates the three into a whole work of art, which provides a mimesis (or full experience) for the audience. Art from an interdisciplinary point of view anchors study in the transferring of methods or practices from one discipline to another. For example, the method of “jump cutting” in film can be transferred to music (such as artfully changing tonal center, dramatically but persuasively), creating a analogue mimesis in this different art discipline. In this way, disciplines learn from one another by allowing new methods to shine new or deeper perspectives on ways to accomplish the making of the art object.
There remains the dimension of transdisciplinary to round out Great Artistry. The transdisciplinary aspect of artistry requires rigorous training in a discipline, and requires the capacity to accrue methods and perspectives from an interdisciplinary approach, learning in a community of artists in other mediums. Transdisciplinary artistry goes further, to involve the expanse of the “great conversation” of “great ideas”, “great themes”, “great sensations”, “great myths”, and so on, that one finds in the body of the greatest works of art and thought, both literary and non-literary. All that makes the deep subjects of the Humanities are a part of a flowing continuum, of oceans to rivers and back again. The Humanities, which I organize as the arts, languages, history, theology, and philosophy (including natural philosophy), comprise a vast treasure of perspectives on the human condition deemed inspirational, insightful, and intuitive.
The point is not merely to make, say, a piece of music that works as music, in the normal, conventional expectation. That is a good goal, of course. And an interdisciplinary perspective can raise the work of music beyond conventional expectation and be clever, innovative, or novel. But to make timeless art, that speaks in many ways, many times over and thus is inexhaustible, to make art that offers full and enriched experiences, even when returning time and time again — this is what the transdisciplinary dimension offers because it offers to the artist content: the source material, as, for example, the Geneva Bible was for Shakespeare, or as Hildegard von Bingen plainchant was for Bach, or Rembrandt was for Picasso, and so on. It is about swimming through the rivers into the ocean of our tradition of cultural achievement that is the Humanities, and then building one’s own boat to sail its waters based in part on the models of the greats, using what they found, seeking what they sought.
Inspiration, insight, and intuition flow. The artist not merely submits to these, but also seeks to irrigate these energies so that others share in the sensations of these, themselves. The artist, rigorously disciplinary and interdisciplinary, and having developed her relationship with the great works of art, those that unmistakably evoke the great conversation, has received inspiration, insight, and intuition from these works of art, and in making their sailing vessel that is their own original object of art, pass on these three levels of energy to their audience, and future generations of artists.
Thus Great Artistry is holonic — making art objects both whole in experience evoked, and a part of tradition, and a part of what makes future works of art. Great Artistry incorporates disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary attitudes and practices. It is inherently a means of sustainability in the world of art. And it is, I believe, the only authentic means of genuine aesthetic originality, because originality means not merely novelty of style or character, but having traced back to the origins, plumbing the depths to ultimately return to the surface to share the transformation that can be shared in no other way than to make this electric object. Originality is a reaction, born of learned immersion.
Great Artistry is not limited to mere self-expression. Which, don’t misunderstand, is important and valuable, something all ought (and do) participate in, in some capacity. But, make no mistake, mere self-expression without transformation from the bathing in greatness probably won’t be timeless, classic, or an example of sustainability. For these qualities are not given to every person, but deserved by anyone who does, and thus evokes, the great work, the great elaboration, the great exploration of the common ground of the human condition. This entry was posted on Thursday, June 7th, 2007 at 4:24 pm and is filed under Art. HomeThe WoodshedElegant Thorn ReviewThe Bookshelf About the Authors Great Quotes