Aphorisms for Music and the Visual Arts

by Russell L. Adams, Ph.D.

Instead of my usual list of names or occasions, I wish to share some of my reflections on the generic aspects of music and the visual arts.

1. Music travels as vibrating waves of air; visual art travels on waves of  light.

2. Music cannot be seen and the visual arts cannot be heard, although the deaf cannot hear the former, nor blind see the latter.

3. Music-making is a formalized restatement of tones and times arising out of daily life; painting and sculptured images are thoughts conceived as "things."

4. Music may be generated by the masses (e.g., the spirituals) as well as created by the solo artist (e.g., "recorded hits").

5. Music is tone-patterned sound intended for the ear; visual art objects are reconfigured matter intended for the eye.

6. Music is discursive sound presented in stipulated units of time; the visuals are presented as finished products, whether two-or three-dimensional or a dimensional blend.

7. The "motions" of music often "move" the body; in the visual arts, the "motion" is mental.

8. Music reproduction does not involve loss of its intrinsic value; reproductions of original images and objects are never equal to their sources.

9. The finest musical and artistic creations erase the walls between artists and audiences.

10. Excellence in music and art partakes of the deepest universal and the best of the particular, a fact which enables one to speak of Black art or Black music as well as Native American Art or European Music.


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February 2001