Saturday, August 15, 2015


Adron at Criminal Records, L5Fest, 2013
Art, fundamentally, is the merging of two consciousnesses. We can never really know what it's like to experience the consciousness of another person - their thoughts, perceptions, memories, associations, and so on - but art gives us the closest approximation.

Let me explain: let's say I climb a mountain and am profoundly moved on an emotional level by the sight of the blossoming trees in the valley below.  Not just like, "Ooh, that's pretty" moved, but some string of associations is triggered such that I'm literally rendered speechless and tears come to my eyes, and most importantly, I feel compelled to share this experience with others.

I could lead someone else back up the mountain to show them the view, but they may not see it the same way as I had back them.  First, the view might have changed - the angle of the light might be different at a different time of day, some of the blossoms may have fallen since I last viewed the valley below, or developers might have build a McDonalds where the trees used to stand since last I climbed the mountain.  But even if the view's exactly the same, the other person might not see it the same way as I had.  Maybe all they can see is the long arduous trail up the mountain.  Maybe they're so worried about bears and other predators that fear can't let them see beyond their immediate surroundings to the valley below ("Fear is the mind killer," as Adron would say).  Or maybe blossoms in the spring simply don't appear as miraculous to them as they do to us.  We can show them the view, but we can't make them see it.

On the other hand, if it just so happened that we were a skilled enough artist, we might be able to capture some of the magic that we saw in a painting.  We might be able to capture the brilliance of the sun on the blossoms, or the epic scale of the valley below us, and present only the things that moved us and omit the things (long walks, bears) that might distract us.  In short, with enough skill and talent, not to mention artistic vision, we can re-create and express the vision that so moved us on the mountaintop much better than if we simply led another person up the mountain itself.

But the artist's expression is still only half of the artistic experience - someone else has to be able to see and understand what is being expressed.  An artist can paint the bright white light dancing on the spring blossoms, but someone else has to see the dabs of white paint as "sunlight," understand the blurred edges of the dabs as the motion of the flowers due to wind.  But (and here's the beautiful part and the point of this all) once we "get it" and see the painting in the way the artist intended, then we're experiencing the vision the way the artist experienced the vision, and are sharing the artist's perceptions and associations, in short, their consciousness, in a way that would be if not impossible then at least difficult without art.    

Music is not a representational art form but still exists at the interface of two consciousnesses - that of the musician and of the listener.  The musician selects a series of notes to be played in a manner and at a rhythm of the musician's choosing, and the listener hears those notes and puts them together in their own minds to recreate the composition that the musician had intended.

Actually, the music that you hear exists solely and entirely in your own head.  In the here-and-now eternal moment of this very instant, there is only one note being played - the one you're hearing right now - and all other notes, including that of just a nanosecond ago, are simply your memory, and your anticipation of the next note is merely in your imagination.  You are the one putting together the tune, the rhythm, and the composition in you own head, and in so doing, you are sharing the memory and imagination of the musician creating the sounds - in short, you and the musician are sharing a form of consciousness.  Add to that music's amazing ability to convey emotional content and you have a shared experience not unlike that of the painter of the blossoms.

Atlanta's Adron has chosen to share with the world her experience and interpretation of the classic hymn Ava Maria, performed in her own nuevo bossa nova style.  The song, as put together in your own head, is as much your own performance as hers, and Adron's choice to perform the song in her distinctive style lets the listener not only anticipate the next notes, but to join her mind in associations with not only classical music, but also Brazilian and other tropical genres.  Moments of surprise emerge when the percussion picks up or the whistling begins, and sounds that weren't anticipated by our imaginations nonetheless suddenly become events in our memory and the artist's consciousness informs ours.  Listening, our minds fall into the same tempo as hers, together we share an appreciation of the old and the new, and afterwards, we both have a shared memory of the performance.  

If consciousness is, as some philosophers and sages suggest, an emergent property that arises out of a combination of sensation, perception, memory, and imagination, then we have experienced a moment of shared consciousness when hearing this (or for that matter, any) song.

It doesn't even matter whether or not you like the song (I do, but that's besides the point).  Even if you don't like it, you're still sharing consciousness, but unfortunately for you, consciousness of an experience that you don't like.  Like it or not - it's still the same thing.  

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