In a gallery (or on the right label) the audience may assume there's something there even without being able to perceive it immediately, and there is something pleasurable about the avidly receptive state of mind where one is determined to perceive things—all things—aesthetically. But any work that requires, not just rewards, such a mindset not only ignores the way human consciousness naturally relates to art, it runs the risk of the audience simply not registering the work as art—a far more serious problem than the audience not liking it.
It's not that art somehow has to "stand by itself" or that the artist or anyone else is forbidden to talk about it; context is always and everywhere part of art and the artistic or aesthetic experience. But however complicated, rigorous or unique the conceptual underpinnings of a work are, we always do and must experience that work of art first as a visceral thing. We only read the essay, hear the lecture, do the research and so on as a second-order reaction to what happens to us when we see the painting, read the novel, hear the album and so on. If that work of art doesn't work on and for us without the explanation the artist seeks to provide, then the art in question doesn't work at all.
If I haven't yet addressed this specific art object yet, well, Robin Mackey gets a twelve page essay starting on the front cover here to argue that Acid in the Style of David Tudor is a valuable and interesting work of art, and I have about 500 words to get at why I think he's wrong. It's a good essay, but as intriguing as it makes this album sound, it's still a gloss on what I hear when I hit play. Hecker is engaged in some high-level thinking involving the difference between two senses of how a sound can be "of" something, hooking synthesizers up to computers to make a conceptual point, and something about evoking "a 303 gone psychotic."
But the result sounds like thinking, not music: it lacks any melody or rhythm even as it fails to be noisy or bracing or stark or alien enough to be striking. Instead it sounds like a collection of parts you could use to build some pretty interesting music. Here, though, they're just presented to the listener in a lump. As a philosophical tool, Acid in the Style of David Tudor may well be an engaging way for those so inclined to grapple with the issues Hecker and Mackey are raising. But as a work of art it's hard to imagine anyone listening to it for pleasure even once.
Thu / 3 Sep 2009
01. Acid In The Style Of David Tudor
02. Acid In The Style Of David Tudor
03. ASA 1
04. Acid In The Style Of David Tudor
05. Acid In The Style Of David Tudor
06. ASA 2
07. Acid In The Style Of David Tudor
08. ASA 3
09. Acid In The Style Of David Tudor