Thursday, November 29, 2007

Arts and Sciences

Unfortunately, my plans to write last night went awry, thanks to the tell-tale laundry basket mocking me from the darkness of my closet. But now that I have clean clothes, I am back on track and atoning for my neglect.

It was a great day in Science Times yesterday. In addition to the reproduction and vocal quality article-- which was interesting until the last paragraph, when it became kind of hilarious--there was an article on the biological basis of the arts.

The very watered down summary is that some scientists hypothesize that we engage in the arts because they allow is to replicate the maternal-infant bonding activities of... well, replication. I have made faces at enough babies in enough contexts-- family picnics, the Benetton at M and Wisconsin, church-- to know how this works (yes, even though I am not a baby mama). We make exaggerated facial expressions-- I am a master of the big, goofy smile-- and wait for babies to smile back. And we understand that children learn to speak by listening and mimicking. None of this is earth-shattering.

I have some proto-thoughts about this article, but it's hard to figure out exactly how it relates to the whole range of artistic endeavors. It really highlights the distinction between artistry and creativity, which I think is kind of the humanities version of "a square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not a square"--you can reproduce a melody written by Bach (which I have been known to do, on occasion, in addition to "The Rainbow Connection," my first-ever violin solo). And you're generating something and it's art, but are you really creating? Apparently, you're just indulging an innate urge to replicate patterns you already kind of knew because your mom sang to you.

Really? I like to think that, at some point, we as a species get off the evolutionary couch and make some new stuff. I have friends who construct collages and compose music, and by this hypothesis they are just doing what they are wired to do, but I happen to think that they are really creative.

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