A long time ago, after one stultifying conversation too many, I worked out a definition of “art” that I’ve stuck with ever since. Art, I maintain, consists of expressing as much as possible within the tightest possible set of constraints.Look at the history of music and that’s what you’ll see: people setting up rules, demonstrating how to work within them, and then having others take that form far beyond what they themselves achieved with it. Thus Bach’s Art of the Fugue formalizes rules developed by predecessors including Buxtahude and Corelli -and demonstrates the form through an entire cycle. Similarly Hayden invented much of what Mozart formalized and made perfect, while Beethoven built toward others, like Shostakovich, by extending the forms he learned from both and exploding the depth and range that could be expressed within them.
I’m told that much of the histories of painting, sculpture, poetry, ballet, and even photography have the same pattern: someone originates and demonstrates a restrictive form and then someone else uses the restrictions imposed by the form to create something that takes its place at the pinacle of human achievement.
Read Paul Murphy’s blog at ZDNet