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September 15, 1959 - Image 8

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1959-09-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

1

Technology's Invasion
In the Realm of Art
By DAVID KESSEL

T HE AGE of technology has pro-
duced many labor-saving de-
vices which have greatly simpli-
fied a multitude of tasks, freeing
people from time-consuming pro-
jects to work in areas where they
are not replaceable by mechanical
or electrical equipment.
But the intrusion of electrical
or mechanical devices into the
realm of "art' is something else
again, something which must be
carefully watched. With the ar-
rival of technological complica-
tions on the contemporary scene,

new and curious art forms are
dropping out of some of the most
unlikely places.
Just as photography made the
task of the artist trivial, if not un-
necessary, modern science and en-
gineering have conspired to replace
the"artist, the composer, the writ-
er, and even the actor with a
variety of mechanical, electrical
and chemical contrivances.
WHETHER this will result in the
creation of a whole new con-
cept of art and craft remains to

be seen, but the signs indicate
that such may indeed be the case.
Long ago, when someone wanted
to paint a picture, he had to go
stretch canvas, grind pigments,
steal brushes, spend long hours
learning the elements of composi-
tion, drawing, proportion and that
sort of thing.
But now he can load some cray-
ons into a cannon, point the can-
non at a blank wall, and fire. Then
he can sell the wall to some
wealthy speculator. Or dribble
paints from the rafters onto the
barn floor, X-ray the barn, and
sell both the barn and the X-ray
to the Museum of Modern Art.
In the rigorous days of music, a
composer was more or less ex-
pected to dream up a recognizable
theme, then write a symphony
around it. At present, a handbook ELECTRICITY'S L
of mathematical formulae can be
obtained, guaranteed to somehow with which every man can be a
produce playable compositions composer of one sort or another.
after a suitable series of manipu- All that seems necessary is a
lations. recorder, miles of tape, a scissors,
glue, and an insensitive ear. After
EVEN more subtle is the use of brief incubation, this collection of
the infamous tape recorder, ingredients can produce an end-

4
4

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less stream of sound, described by
come as "music."
In the dim and misty past,
writers groped about after plots,
characters, motives, dialog, then
strung everything together into a
short story or a novel; and if there
were not any characters, then it
turned into an essay.
Stream of consciousness has al-
ready replaced this procedure, and
a free-associating device attached
to an IBM typewriter is all we lack
for automatic writing of a new
and horrible sort.
EVEN the musician can be re-
placed by a little black box full
of goodies.
The advent of player pianos was
grim news to the pianists' union.
The phonograph brought Rubin-
stein into the parlor so that any
record-spinner could hear Beetho-
ven's piano sonatas without the
detour through twenty years of
finger exerecises. And now three
engineers with signal generators
can fill entire auditoriums with
fanatics listening for square waves.
What all this seems to mean is
that the long hours of careful
consideration, learning, practice
and inspired thought that once
went into production of art, music
and literature is being replaced by
an equivalent amount of time
which is used to design and build
pieces of apparatus which do in
a completely artificial way, the
same things.
WHETHER or not this is ac-
ceptable depends on what peo-
ple are willing to accept.
The people who areselling and
buying paint dribbles, sine-wave
music and player piano rolls will
accept them, and, in time, perhaps
others will accept them also.
The menace of technology has
now entered the sphere of schol-
arly pursuits. Computors are in the
works which can translate Greek
into Russian into Choctaw into
points on a curve.
Where it will all end is not easy
to say, but it seems likely that
about the time someone invents a
machine that can write, someone
will invent one that can read, and
then it will be all over.
David Kessel, former
teaching fellow at the Uni-
versity, has often.writtens
music reviews for The
Daily.
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