The Superficial Expectations of Music and Art

Some individuals mistakenly believe that the sole purpose of music is to either cheer up or relax people. This is a rather superficial and airy-fairy misconception about music and art in general.

It is often said that art and music nourish the human soul. This is true. But it is sustenance that creates nourishment, not the sugarcoating. Human beings, by nature, have a complexity of thoughts, emotions and feelings. The purpose of aesthetics is not to put one into a blissful la-la land of fluffy bunnies, sunshine and rainbows. It is to impart a message and create interaction between the artist and the listener or viewer. This may include even being provocative or dark. It includes whatever it includes to communicate a message at an aesthetic level, which is the closest level to the human essence. The communication is a true one; it goes deep; it impinges; it doesn’t scrape the surface.

The point is not whether or not an art or musical piece creates happy, uplifting moods. It’s whether or not it communicates and causes interaction with the viewer or listener, thus imparting some sort of message. And this can consult a variety of moods, tones, feelings, emotions, etc. But the thing is that whatever the mood, tone, feeling, emotion, etc., it is all done at the aesthetic level, that higher level carrier wave that hits home to the human soul. THAT is what is truly nourishes the human soul.

Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 “Pathétique” has a haunting melancholy that can deeply evoke the listener. It isn’t musical “comfort food” intended to lull one to sleep. Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights” painting is not meant as a décor piece like an armchair, aquarium or flower arrangement. It is meant to provoke thoughts and feelings, daring to tackle otherworldly and surrealistic themes. On the other hand, imagine a dramatic movie portraying Jesus Christ tranquil and smiling during his crucifixion while impaled and bleeding. It would be quite depthless, not to mention ludicrous.

And a human being is not depthless. We are sophisticated, sentient and aware beings. We are not superficial by our true inherent nature. Yet some of us have been degraded with false ideas perpetrated by our society into considering that we are. We are capable of a much higher level of communication and confronting of life and the universe. And music, art and other forms of aesthetics are means by which to help elevate us to higher levels of existence.

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