A Violent Encounter? : Notions of Hidden ‘Violence’ in Compositional Thoughts, Acts, and Encounters with the Work of Art

Tomorrow I will present the following at a postgraduate conference in Leeds. The research is still in development. An abstract is included below:

The process of encountering a work of art potentially involves a hidden ‘violent’ event. In ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’, Martin Heidegger portrays the encounter with an artwork as entailing a dynamic strife-filled ‘world’ of sociocultural and historical relations and signifiers that is paradoxically both autonomous and reliant on human interaction. Although Heidegger explains that the overall interpretation of such a work of art is not violent, but transports the receiver into an ‘openness’ opened up by the artwork, there is a ‘violence of thought’ in the underlying mechanics of this process, and it seems that the ‘world’ encountered relies on a prior understanding of the artwork’s significations. Albeit only part of Heidegger’s overall thought about encountering a work of art, the ‘violence of thought’ is a conceptual framework for comprehending ‘art’ and ‘artworks’ that is constructed from a long line of traditional understanding about what the work of art is.

With a compilation of existing literature and music, and examples of my own compositions, I compare such ‘violence of thought’ with an artwork’s inherent willingness to signify something other than what it potentially actually is when free from such association. I explain how such a pre-established conceptual framework for comprehending music is governed by a dynamic relationship with tradition and culture, considering how this can influence the way in which one interprets a composition, and as such, controls the composer’s act.

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