AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone


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READING PROJECTS: HISTORICAL SCHEMES AS LITERARY ARTIFACTS

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What follows is a guest post by David Alff.

Last year I finished writing a book about projects. Not art projects or housing projects or chemistry projects, but the idea of projects itself. I wanted to learn how humans came to organize their lives and worlds through discrete endeavor. I wanted to understand how enterprise became such a widespread vehicle for ambition that we seldom notice its existence. What are projects anyway? Why are we always doing them? How else could we spend our time? These questions drove me to see the project as a distinct form with a traceable past rather than as a daunting abstraction or the container of something more salient. Studying projects on their own terms, I thought, would give me fresh vantage on the history of ideas. My book set out to reveal nothing less than the basic unit by which anything has ever been done. Continue reading


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AN EXPERIMENT IN PHILOSOPHY AND POETRY

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What follows is a guest post by philosopher Aaron Meskin. He discusses a book that he and poet Helen Mort recently co-authored. In it, Mort “replies” to a variety of different philosophers’ papers with original poems, and the philosophers get to reflect on the poem and its relationship to their work. This piece is also cross-posted at Daily Nous. Continue reading


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JAAC x AFB: HOLLOW SOUNDS

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What follows is a post in our ongoing collaborative series with the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. This is based on a new article by Daryl Jamieson, “Hollow Sounds: Toward a Zen‐Derived Aesthetics of Contemporary Music” which you can find in the current issue of JAAC.

Losing yourself in the experience of listening to – or playing – is an experience that many (most?) people will have had at some point in their lives. It can be life-changing. For a child just dabbling in music, having a transcendent experience like that can turn her on to a career. Or it could turn someone into a lifelong fan of the musician or genre of music that they were listening to when it occurred.

I can recall several such experiences: the first time I heard an orchestra live in my school auditorium (playing Akasha (Sky) by Glenn Buhr, if I recall correctly), dancing all night at London clubs with particularly good DJs, the full-frontal assault of analogue Japanese noise music, both times I have been present at live performances of Feldman’s more-than-six-hour-long String Quartet N°2, the weirdly-erotic ritualism of Wagner’s Parsifal, and the shock of encountering the 15th-century Matteo da Perugia’s sublimely complex Le greygnour bein. I could go on…

I’ve been composing since before I knew what a composer was, and naturally, having had many of these transcendent experiences with music myself, my own goal as a composer is to write music that has this effect on listeners (and performers). I came to aesthetics as a discipline late in this quest, having stumbled my way (basically self-taught) through political philosophy and queer theory in university, and getting into Buddhist philosophy as a way to understanding Nō theater. From learning about Dōgen and medieval Buddhist thinkers, I naturally got into the spiritual, ethical, and aesthetic philosophy of more modern Japanese philosophers. I was especially intrigued by the Kyoto School, a loose association of thinkers based around Kyoto University whose founding figurehead was Nishida Kitarō (1870-1945). In their writings on art, flowers, and especially poetry, these philosophers greatly influenced my own musical craft. They were writing about art’s transcendental power as an aid to religious experience and sometimes as a substitute path to enlightenment.

But I began to notice something odd: none of these philosophers – or any other major Japanese philosopher – had written anything substantial about music. Continue reading


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MORE THAN SKIN DEEP WITH FRANK BOARDMAN

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Frank Boardman interviewed by Roy Cook for AFB

Frank Boardman is is a visiting assistant professor at Worcester State University. Most of his work has been in philosophy, art and rhetoric. He has a completely unwarranted belief that he could also write about parenting, technology or basketball. Continue reading


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ARTHUR DANTO ASA PRIZE – DEADLINE 5/31

The Arthur Danto/American Society for Aesthetics Prize will be awarded to a member of the APA and the ASA for the best paper in the field of aesthetics, broadly understood, in a refereed journal, or an original book chapter or original essay published in a collection with a multiplicity of contributors. This prize is in honor of the late Arthur Danto, a past president of the APA Eastern Division.

Arthur C. Danto, Head, 1957, woodcut,
15”x18.25”. Photo: Liz Murphy Thomas.

The winner receives a $1,000 prize. In addition, a symposium in honor of the recipient of the prize is held at the APA Eastern Division meeting, normally the next such meeting following the selection of the prizewinner.

The nomination deadline is May 31, 2017.

Nominees must be members of both the APA and the ASA in the year of the nomination. For the inaugural award, nominated papers must have been published in 2015 or 2016. Nominations must be from a person who is a member of both the APA and the ASA at the time of nomination. Self-nominations are not permitted. To submit a nomination, fill out the Danto/ASA Prize nomination form.

We look forward to receiving your nominations!

 


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THE PHILOSOPHY OF JAZZ

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Norman Lewis, Jazz Band (1948)

What is the philosophy of jazz?

In a sort of order of strength of the foundational questions philosophers of jazz often research and pursue we have:

  • What is jazz? Can it be defined?  Does it have a musical essence? Are there necessary and sufficient conditions for a musical performance to be jazz? How does one determine if free jazz, or jazz-rock fusion is jazz?  Was the movement to free jazz inevitable?
  • Could Martians who know nothing about music on planet Earth play jazz? Why or why not?
  • What is improvisation? Why is improvisation important to jazz?  Can improvisation be taught?  Are improvised (spontaneously composed) works inherently inferior aesthetically to pre-composed ones?
  • What is a musical work? Does jazz have musical works?  Can an improvised jazz performance be a musical work?
  • What does the ideal jazz musician need to know? Why?
  • How does the brain and mind work when playing and improvising jazz? What happens in a groove state or a flow state as it occurs during a jazz performance?
  • Improvisers spontaneously compose creating fresh melodies over the continuously repeating cycle of chord changes in a song. Why should this be admired as aesthetically valuable activity?  Why is this good?
  • Can mistakes occur during a jazz improvisation? Which ones are not mistakes?  How are mistakes possible?  What kind of mistakes can occur during a jazz performance?
  • Does playing jazz make a musician more spiritual? How has jazz contributed to freedom and creativity in the world?
  • Does jazz have emergent properties?

And we have barely scratched the surface.

So writes David C. Ring (Orange Coast College), editor of the website Philosophy of Jazz and co-organizer of the Jazz and Philosophy Intermodal Conference, would like to invite readers to pursue these topics and questions (and enjoy some jazz jam sessions!) at the conference, May 5-7, 2017. Details below the fold.
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