WHY HAS ART ALWAYS BEEN RELISHED, BUT NEVER PROPERLY UNDERSTOOD? Part 1
WHY HAS ART ALWAYS BEEN RELISHED, BUT NEVER PROPERLY UNDERSTOOD?
Humans have been relishing art forever, but we still do not know what in art so attracts us. A glance at the history of art reveals that the oldest musical instrument found is a flute made of bone that is about 40,000 years old. The earliest cave paintings are about 35, 000 years old. Aristotle wrote the first book on art, Poetics. Since then, it has been debated at the highest levels what art is, and why people so relish it. Leo Tolstoy cataloged the gist of the writings of some 67 different philosophers on art in his book, “What is Art.” He critiqued all of them and refuted each for a different reason. Then, he uttered his theories that were the least acceptable of all. He claimed that art has to be at the service of brotherhood through Christianity to pass as art; and said the same about science. He denounced all the giants of art by names such as Michael Angelo, Mozart, Beethoven, Shakespeare, and others, and labeled them as counterfeits. Hence, claiming that humans have enjoyed art forever, but never have understood it, is no exaggeration, but this study from an exclusive perspective ends this ambiguity for the first time.
This study is unique because it studies the subjects that pertain to the human mind, not in our external world, but at their point of origin, the mind, and that makes a world of difference. My studies on the human mind, The Interactions Between Instincts and Intellect and Their Impact on Human Behavior, disassemble the mind into its parts to study the properties, mission, and function of each separately. Among other things, this method solves a few major human mysteries that include the riddle of arts.
Here we learn that the human mind alone consists of instincts and intellect, and that makes our mind bipolar, compared to animals that live by instinct alone, and that makes their mind single polar. There are 17+3 different human instincts, each of which pursues a different goal. The three additional instincts pertain to how humans relate to the phenomena of sound, smell, and color, each of which has much to do with arts. I have excluded these three from the list of instincts to keep these theories simple that deal with other human subjects. And, unlike the rest of the instincts, they do not forcefully drive any particular behavior. And, human intellect divides into the Utilitarian Intellect and Moral Intellect. Thus, a total of 19 different mental forces govern everything all humans do.
These 17 instincts are as follows:
- being social
- the maternal instinct
- politicking and trickery
- the will to live
- will to power
- the instinct of laziness
- the instinct of divulgence
- the instinct of chauvinism
Our instinctive love of rhythm, color, and good quality sound create a longing for particular groups of art that together cover a vast portion of arts. And, a specific attribute of the utilitarian intellect admires another group of arts that also covers another broad category of arts. The structure of each group is different, and each category of art relates to a particular mental force. Based on these two facts, arts divide into three distinct categories of Rhythmic Arts, Imitative Arts, and Abstract Arts.
Rhythmic arts consist of arts that rhythm in them holds their attractive power that consists of music, poetry, dancing, architectural work, and Persian rugs. In Imitative Arts, artists use their skills and talent to artistically imitate and replicate real objects or subjects comprising paintings, sculpturing, and the art of storytelling (writing stories, acting, and film making.) Abstract arts mostly consist of paintings, and dazzling colors in them hold their attractive power. Thus, arts divide into three categories, and we enjoy each group for a different reason.
Each instinct pursues a specific objective, and achieving them creates a particular sort of pleasure and satisfaction unique to that instinct. Rhythm in rhythmic arts satisfies the instinct of rhythm, and we feel the process as pleasure and joy that we get from such arts. Even infants have a strong instinctive reaction to such arts, and especially to music.
The Utilitarian Intellect pertains to humans’ reasoning faculty, understanding, creativity, learning, science, technology, invention and discoveries, and so on. One of the essential attributes of the Utilitarian Intellect is that it always strives for perfection and excellence in everything humans engage that includes arts. Imitative arts revolving around imitation and replication, and they connect with the utilitarian intellect. Thus, I have labeled them as the Imitative Arts.
And Abstract Arts as another category of arts mostly consists of paintings made of brilliant colors. Because of humans’ intense instinctive love of colors, they attract people.
Rhythmic arts and abstract arts pertain to the instinct of rhythm and humans’ instinctive love of color, respectively. The unchanging nature of all instinct renders all their wants, needs, and desires permanent. It resembles food intake that satisfies our hunger for a while, only needing to eat again later. Thus, all instincts have an unquenchable appetite for their pursuits. Hence, human desire for music, sensuality, dominance, wealth, adventure, being admired, and so on, induced by different instincts, are never permanently satisfied. Each person’s strongest instincts produce their deepest pleasures. Now, let us get to know each group of arts in more detail.
1- RHYTHMIC ARTS
As mentioned before, the rhythm becomes an attractive power in all rhythmic arts. Music not being enough to quench this hungry instinct, it has spilled over and found expression in other rhythmic arts to satisfy this instinctive hunger, and we have got the other rhythmic arts, as we will see.
WHY DO WE RELISH MAKING STRANGE NOISES IN THE NAME OF SINGING?
This 420-page book, The Encyclopedia of Musical Instruments, covers an average of six musical instruments per page, a total of some 2500. One wonders why people did not stop inventing musical instruments when they had 800 or 1000 different musical instruments, saying that now we have all the musical instruments we need to make all sorts of music. It is our innate longing for endless variation in musical sound. The slightest difference in sound quality has a great appeal to us. Thus, we have five different sorts of clarinets; each sounds slightly different from the rest. We have violin and viola, flute, and piccolo that sound slightly different from one another.
Inventing musical instruments with good sound quality is not an easy task. This difficulty limits the supply of instruments as compared to the endless demand for them and creates a vast void between supply and demand. Humans cleverly have integrated human voice into the bank of musical instruments to solve this problem. Each person’s voice, personality, and fingerprints are unique. Individuals with pleasant voice quality become singers, and this turns each singer into a new human musical instrument with a voice as unique as the sound each instrument produces. We get endless variations, and that fills this void.
Hence, singers become extensions of instrumentation. Singers with great voice quality skillfully fuse their voice with the sound instruments create and produce magical results. The warmth in the human voice of singers and their interaction with the audience make these human instruments the essential instruments in any vocal musical performance. Some singers perform so beautifully that they bring tears of joy to many eyes. Thus, we understand why intelligent and purposeful humans get so engrossed with this otherwise seemingly frivolous and inexplicable act of making strange noises in the name of singing.
THE IMPORTANCE OF RHYTHM TO HUMANS
Why does rhythm matter to us? For that, we need to note that life is full of human-made and natural rhythms. Since there is no unified agreement on what rhythm is, I have attempted to define it that is important for this text. Rhythm is created through organized repetition of certain elements in some fashion that may or may not have artistic values. In nature, the systematic sunrise and sunset, the appearance and disappearance of the Moon, the changing of light to darkness and vice versa every day, the changing of seasons, the migration of animals, harvesting, title waves, and much more are all-natural rhythmic changes. The human body undergoes a few rhythmic changes every 24 hours in harmony with the external rhythmic changes in nature. The periodic and rhythmic changes on our bodies have developed internal clocks in tune with natural rhythmic changes in our environments. When we travel to distanced time zones, the rhythmic changes of our bodies and that of the local place no longer match, and we experience jetlag.
There was a time when renowned chemists of the world convened annually to create a chart for the chemical elements that would reveal their properties at a glance that failed year after year. One year a chemist, John Newlands, suggested that the relationship among the music notes also exists among the chemical elements. His peers ridiculed him, but later an attending Russian chemist, Mendeleev, with great difficulties, structured the periodic table on this notion. In that, using the French system of the seven musical notes of Du, Re, Mi, Fa, So, la, Se, – Du, the eighth note is the same as the first note only in a different pitch, and the ninth note is the same as the second note that repeats itself in a different pitch and so on. When he put the right elements in a row, the eighth element had similar characteristics to the first and fell under it, as the ninth element fell under the second, and the trend repeated itself. Thus, rows and columns formed, and the table emerged. In this table, when you move from the left to right, the number of the electrons on the last orbit of each chemical element increased by one in the most orderly fashion. And when you move from the top to the bottom, their atomic weights increased systematically, and he finished the table.
Three boxes remained empty. Dimitri said that three elements would be found later, and he predicted their atomic structure and weight. They discovered one of them in his lifetime and created the other two in a laboratory that completed the table. Thus, rhythm exists even in the atomic structure of chemical elements, and examples abound, but the point is clear.
Dimitri Mendeleev the Periodic Table
Another essential rhythm in nature is humans’ instinct of rhythm that has precipitated the creation of all rhythmic arts from the start. This instinct is so strong that it shows itself even in toddlers in the way they react to music that abundantly exists on YouTube. Babies in tantrum instantaneously change their moods and start laughing in joy and try to move to the rhythm of music, as the parents play music, and immediately they cry again when the music stops. We all have also observed that many young adults in concerts scream, cry, and some even faint. Many people who have difficulty with walking, can dance to the rhythm of music, and many who have difficulty talking can sing. The rhythm in music satisfies our instinct of rhythm, and we enjoy the process. All instincts work this way. The joy most people get from music far exceeds that of all arts because it satisfies the instinct of rhythm and our instinctive love of good quality sounds that music delivers at the same time. Hence, I claim that music sits at the panicle of all arts. Arthur Schopenhauer also cited this but did not explain why it is.
The music reflects all human emotions, as we have music for birth, and death, for peace and war, music that excites us, and music that relaxes us. We have music that mimics nature, music for laughter, and also music for drama. We have music for love and romance and even music for hate. No other art invokes so many diverse and deep emotions in infants and adults, as does music.
Another intriguing mystery of music exists between peoples’ music and their languages. In that, you travel from the United States to Canada, neither the language nor the music changes. But, you go from the United States to Mexico, and then to Saudi Arabia, India, Russia, Turkey, France, and Italy, and so on, each time peoples’ language changes and with that changes their music. Hopefully, someone will solve this mystery at one point.
It is imperative to know which of the rhythmic arts came first. I argue that it had to be music in its most primitive form that started with humans’ vocal cords. Music had to come before poetry, dancing, the architecture of Persian rugs. Music being incapable of satisfying this hungry instinct of rhythm, the rhythm in music spilled over and found expression in the rest of rhythmic arts. Music had to come before poetry because, in the early stages of human development, languages could not have been advanced enough to lend themselves to express deep thoughts in rhythm poetically. It could not come before dancing, for dancing without music would render no pleasure to justify its existence. When there is a dancing program on your television, you hit mute, and you will see how silly dancing looks without music. Neither architectural work nor Persian rugs could come before music, for they require imagination to design and technology to make them, neither of which could have existed that early. Thus, singing and music had to come first, and humans’ vocal cords had to be the first musical instrument.
Thus, all the rest of the rhythmic arts had to be extensions of music to satisfy the same instinct of rhythm further. Although all rhythmic arts are vastly different from one another, their structure is very similar, and they all hit the instinct of rhythm and produce different intensities of the same sort of pleasure. Thus, one might claim that all rhythmic arts are the music in different realms, and he might be right. However, we hear some of these rhythmic formations, such as music and recited poetry, while we can only see the others, such as in architecture and Persian rugs. This precept gives us “Silent Music.” Regardless of which sensory system (visual, or audio), the effects of rhythm enter into the mind, they all excite the instinct of rhythm, and we enjoy all of them.
I suggest that there are two different sorts of rhythm in arts, fluid rhythm, and rigid or frozen rhythm. You find fluid rhythm is music, poetry and dancing, and rigid rhythm in Persian rugs and architecture that a pictorial demonstration of it clarifies this. In composing music, composers rhythmically fuse specific musical notes into groups known as grouping, which are plaid throughout rhythmically within and among the groups.
Thus, notes become the elements with which they create rhythm in music. At one instance, one group of notes is plaid, and at another instance, different notes are plaid that creates a forward rhythmic motion with the progression of time. In poetry, you recite one word at one instance, and rhythmically recite another word in another instance. In dancing, body movements harmoniously follow the rhythm of the music. In all such cases, you get a forward rhythmic motion in time units, and that makes such rhythms fluid.
You can also find a rhythm on the facades of many buildings. They use windows and ornamental fixtures such as statutes, especially in Europe, and sometimes rustication in some buildings to create visually desirable rhythm. A similar motif exists on the surface of Persian rugs. These rhythmic formations on the façades of buildings and the surface of these rugs are fixed in place, and such rhythms best might be labeled as frozen or rigid rhythm.
RIGID OR FROZEN RHYTHM
Buildings with rhythmic design on their façade exist worldwide in huge numbers, and Persian rugs have enjoyed fame universally for millennia, especially in high culture. If you divide such buildings into two halves by an imaginary vertical line, you will find perfect symmetry on the two sides of this line. All the fixtures on either side of the line are identical in shape, size, and numbers and are equally distanced from this dividing line. This arrangement creates an organized repetition of these elements that constitute rhythm through symmetry.
The Taj Mahal building in India displays this most beautifully. That is because the body of water in front of it reflects the image of the structure, and of the elements that create rhythm are appear not twice, which is customary in most buildings, but four times. If you divide this building by a vertical line, and also a horizontal line to separate the structure from its reflection on the water, each element gets repeated four times. One might claim that each of the elements being repeated four times creates their groupings, as was the case in music. But the elements that create this rhythm being fixed in place renders the rhythm rigid or frozen, as the picture below shows. They say that this is the most beautiful building in the world as many people travel from distanced lands to see it. Any of the elements used to create this rhythm separated presents no beauty in isolation, but positioned together in this rhythmic fashion; they beautify this structure.
Striking similarities exist between this building and Persian rugs. In that, if you connect the middles of the opposing sides of these rugs by two lines, that will divide the rug into four quarters. Different formations saturate the surfaces of Persian rugs. You pick any of such images, and you will find its mirror images in each of the quarters. Thus, each image gets repeated four times that are identical in size, shape, color, and are equally distanced from these dividing lines in perfect symmetries. Here too, each image being repeated four times creates a rhythmic grouping of its own, as was the case in music and the Taj Mahal building.
So many of these grouped shapes covering the entire surface of such rugs they mesh together and become indistinguishable as groups to untrained eyes. However, the instinct of rhythm being so keen subconsciously connects with these rhythmic formations and exacts the pleasure these rhythms render. The picture below presents ample examples of these mirror images in each of the four quarters. The permanent nature of the instinct of rhythm makes its desired arts such as music, poetry, and these rugs also permanent, and they never go out of style. The presence of rhythm and beautiful colors in these rugs make these rugs permanently so attractive.
One finds it intriguing that when you dig deeper into the history of the Taj Mahal, you realize that the king who ordered it to be erected lived in Iran for a long time before he became the king. He hired a Persian architect as the top designer of it. The striking similarity between Persian rugs and this structure attests to the accuracy of this claim.