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Twelve Artist Statements #2 | Ken Vandermark - musician & composer

Twelve Artist Statements #2

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1. “To paint Gothic in 1400 in Florence was wonderful, but those still painting Gothic in 1450 were poor painters.”

-Lionello Venturi, from “Hoffmann,” by Emily Farnham, (Provincetown: Shank Painter Co., Inc., 1999), 5.

2. “A plastic painting has form which is free, suspended. Yet pictorial form must exist on one surface, which has only two dimensions… The edge of the canvas is the beginning and the end of the composition.”

-Hans Hoffmann (1949-1953), from “Hoffmann,” by Emily Farnham, (Provincetown: Shank Painter Co., Inc., 1999), 51-53.

3. “I believe that the use of noise to make music will continue and increase until we reach a music produced through the aid of electrical instruments which will make available for musical purposes any and all sounds that can be heard. Photoelectric, film and mechanical mediums for the synthetic production of music will be explored. Whereas, in the past, the point of disagreement has been between dissonance and consonance, it will be, in the immediate future, between noise and so-called musical sounds. The present methods of writing music, principally those which employ harmony and its reference to particular steps in the field of sound, will be inadequate for the composer, who will be faced with the entire field of sound. New methods will be discovered, bearing a definite relation to Schoenberg’s twelve-tone system and present methods of writing percussion music and any other methods which are free from the concept of a fundamental tone. The principle of form will be our only constant connection with the past. although the great form of the future will not be as it was in the past, at one time the fugue and at another the sonata, it will be related to these as they are to each other: through the principle of organization or man’s common ability to think.”

-John Cage (1937), “Silence,” (Wesleyan University Press, 1973), 3-6.

4. “I’m sure critics have their purpose, and they’re supposed to do what they do, but sometimes they get a little carried away with what they think someone should (in italics) have done, rather than concerning themselves with what he did.”

-Duke Ellington (1960’s), from “The World of Duke Ellington,” by Stanley Dance, (New York: Da Capo Press, 1970), 6.

5. “Perhaps also my letters shock you because you find in them only talk and no style. It is because in the end I disdain what has for a long time been called style in all arts and limit it to the expression of what is necessary and personal. Discipline and personality- those are the limits of style as I understand it; beyond that, there is only imitation not of nature, but of an earlier work of art. Canons seem to me to be useful only in the artillery; in art they are above all hobbles on style…”

-Guillaume Apollinaire (1915-1916), from “The Banquet Years,” by Roger Shattuck (New York: Vintage Books, 1967), 300-01.

6. “We write black marks on white paper- the mere facts of frequency; but music is a communication much more subtle than mere facts. The best a composer can do when within him he hears a great melody is to put it on paper. We call it music, but that is not music; that is only paper. Some believe that one should merely mechanically reproduce the marks on the paper, but I don not believe in that. One must go much further than that. We must defend the composer against the mechanical conception of life which is becoming more and more strong today.”

-Leopold Stokowski (1969), from “The Glenn Gould Reader,” edited by Tim Page (London: Faber and Faber, 1987), 264.

7. “There is nothing so futile as the attempt to make a work of art serve a system of analysis for the conformation of which it was not created.”

-Glenn Gould (1967), from “The Glenn Gould Reader,” edited by Tim Page (London: Faber and Faber, 1987), 139.

8. “His entire repertoire, from “Minutiae,” 1954, to “Ocean,” 1994, is thus a search for the indefinable: the creation or performance of a work that doesn’t exist and cannot exist because it is automatically destined to be negated by subsequent work. If for Cunningham, dance is the representation of what is entirely possible, it is also the representation of what is impossible, the attempt to do what cannot be done. If one interprets this process correctly, from the chance language of 1953 to the 1990 definition of a gesturalism that is impossible, because it is inspired by by a computer logic that imposes solutions that are impossible for the human body, one can understand that, similar to Samuel Beckett, his way working addresses the dimension of failure (in italics). In order to continue to exist, dance, like writing, must resolve to fail, it must come to a realization that is so extreme it cannot be achieved. The attainment of this goal, without hope, is a propensity to throw oneself into a void, as Cage threw himself into silence, in order to achieve the impossible. The hope is to be able to reveal a new dimension of movement that is free from time and space, and above all from the language of dance. The struggle and effort are directed toward its annihilation, which constitutes a continuous promise of rebirth of a new dimension of activity and existence.”

-Germano Celant (1999), from “Merce Cunningham,” edited by Germano Celant (Barcelona: Charta, 1999), 24.

9. “Imitation, influence, and inspiration? Where do you draw the lines now? That’s one thing I’d like to know. Yes, just about everybody has been inspired by another musician, has adopted characteristics of his style and clothed them in his own personality. Some people have done it very skillfully and deliberately. Others have done it, you might say, grabbing at a straw! It may surprise you, but I think those who have done it, grabbing at a straw, are the ones who have come up with the nearest (in italics) thing to something new.”

-Duke Ellington (1960’s), from “The World of Duke Ellington,” by Stanley Dance, (New York: Da Capo Press, 1970), 6.

10. “This note is barely meeting the dateline for material to be published in this book for this reason: I don’t want to examine and flatten by classification, and description a continuous moment of collaboration that exists in a group soul. Details are fickle and political and tend to destroy the total events. The rare experience of working with such exceptional people under always unique conditions and in totally unpredictable places (all acceptable because of a mutual compulsive desire to make and share) should not, by me, be shortchanged by memory or two-dimensional facts. All of us worked totally committed, shared every intense emotion and, I think, performed miracles, for love only.”

-Robert Rauschenberg (1974), from “Merce Cunningham,” edited by Germano Celant (Barcelona: Charta, 1999), 139.

11. “That is the reason that accident always has to enter into this activity, because the moment you know what to do, you’re making just another form of illustration.”

-Francis Bacon (1966), from “The Impact of Chaim Soutine,” edited by Galerie Gmurzynska (Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz, 2001), 88.

12. “Well, thank God, art tends to be less what critics write than what artists make.”

-Jasper Johns (1959), from “Barnett Newmann,” edited by Ann Temkin (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2002), 51.