You sometimes wonder which of the arts the primary one is. Is it literature, the visual arts of painting, sculpture etc, architecture, dance with ballet, or is it music?
Which of our senses is most aroused by beauty? That is if we claim ‘beauty’ to be the sole arbiter of becoming emotionally or spiritually aroused. Some people might well claim that tragedy and sadness is the one that moves us most. Do people get tears in their eyes when viewing a beautiful painting? I know I have never been moved to tears by visual arts but have (been moved to tears) listening to a beautiful piece of music.
A few nights ago I viewed on television the Rachmaninoff second piano concerto with Lang Lang on the piano. Now, that did move me to tears. It was held in the Sydney Opera House in 2011. Not that viewing the beauty of design in Sydney’s opera house would ever move me to tears. The visual versus the auditory are different and evoke different responses. If tears are the arbiter of emotional responses music would have to be the clear winner in reaching deeper into our souls than anything else.
When Lang Lang performed at the opening of the Beijing Olympic Games it is claimed 40.000.000 Chinese children took up the piano afterwards. That’s twice the entire population of Australia. Now, that’s what I would call a rousing response to music. Music would have to be an art form that seems essential to us humans reaching our potential in nurturing emotional intelligence, sensitivity and awareness… It is known now that babies, while still safe inside their mothers, already react to musical sounds. Take any group of toddlers and start up music and in no time they will dance, move about and clap hands.
With books and stories we might get closer to tears. Films are also very capable of evoking tearful emotions, but… a good filmmaker knows that the music is essential during beautiful, harrowing and emotional scenes and it plays an important role. I can’t imagine a scene of great sorrow and loss but accompanied by the music of ‘three blind mice, or Humpty Dumpty’ could easily induce tears in an audience. I vividly remember in the Visconti movie of ‘Death in Venice’ Gustav Mahler’s piece the adagietto of his 5th symphony moved many to tears. Would it have been the same with the music score of ‘Simple Simon met a Pieman?’ I doubt it.
In the ‘best movie’, the ‘best director’, nominated for ‘ten awards’ movie ‘The Artist’ there was no dialogue but this was compensated more than adequately by its glorious music, (and the spitting image of our Jack Russell ‘Milo’). Yet, a non-documentary movie with only dialogue but without any music would be difficult to not become boring, perhaps even unwatchable. The era of silent movies always had live music being played. This was sometimes achieved by a tinny phonograph, a solitary man or woman playing the piano, or an entire orchestra. The music score was essential in bringing an audience to appreciate the movie and its story during the era of ‘silent movies’.
I feel that music might well be the foundation corner stone of the ‘arts’, but of course many will claim this to be owned by Shakespearean written words or Picasso’s Guernica or Rembrandts Night watch. It’s what moves us is what is important. Who knows, for some it might be just looking at the stars and the moon?
It just never stops.