Art vs. Music

By: Rick Rotante

I have always wondered why it is that when I listen to music and when I view art, their effects on me are so different. Why don’t I look at art and get the same relative feeling as when I listen to music? I am deeply moved when seeing a beautiful work of art. This is true whether by a master of old or a contemporary master. But my feelings differ dramatically when experiencing each.

I have experienced this when watching others listening to music or viewing art. Why is that, I wonder?

I have asked this question to myself for some time now and wondered about the answer. I would like to explore a theory that has been formulating in my mind over a period of years and see what you think. First let me tell you my thoughts about art and then I will present the ideas I have about music. In my youth I trained and preformed as a musician before moving permanently into Fine Art.

When we look at a work of art, there seems to me, to be a lapse of time between the viewer’s feeling for that artwork. The views response is seldom immediately affected. A feeling about the artwork becomes more apparent to the viewer the longer he views the work or the more he knows about the work. But the instant emotional feelings they get will be minor or more accurately subdued. Conversely, the opposite may also happen and no feeling about it will take place. We sum up the experience as one where we either liked the art or not and go on with our day. Why don’t we get a visceral experience right off the bat? There are things about art we need to know in order for it to affect us before we can have an emotional reaction to it. Sure we may like the subject matter, or the colors may be pleasing, but we remain distanced. Something is missing within us that has not been brought to bear. We see the art but have to process it intellectually. We need to know what it is saying. We appreciate and understand the techniques applied by the artist and effort put into it but we remain apart from it. Over time and with more study we begin to appreciate the work and/or the artist. But still we are not emotionally invested in the art. Why not?

With music there seems to be a different effect. People listening to a piece of music have an immediate effect upon hearing the music whether they recognize it or not. Based on our exposure and experience with the music being played, our emotional responses to it may be intensified. We may not know anything about the piece being played or the author or in what context it belongs, yet we feel something stir within us that makes an emotional connection. Why doesn’t this happen when we look at art?


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