Tuesday, September 14, 2010

5 Pretentionist Statements

I'm posting this in honor of Stegosaurus Week at Dinosaur Tracking. Here's Day One, here's Day Two.

Rob Pierce, my partner in culture-crime, recently sent me an email that touched on a number of creative issues that have been occupying my mind recently. I suggested that he post it on his blog and I respond; he agreed.

And I spent the next few days scratching my head, trying to figure out how to make the unified statement that seemed to be lurking in the underbrush. That statement has yet to emerge, so I'm going to give you a point-by-point response. In reverse. Because every day is backwards day.

Note that these are responses. Not replies or rebuttals. I agree with what Rob says, but he made me think of other things. Where I come from, we call that a conversation.


1. One of many lessons I've learned from scriptwriting is that writing is an intermediary. A conduit. There is the experience, imagined or remembered, that is the writer's. There is an experience stimulated by the writing, and that is the audience's. The writing itself is the means by which the one experience stimulates the other, and while the beauty of words is a worthy goal in itself, I prefer to make it subservient to function.

Without purpose and function, there can be no strength.

2. The medium always affects the nature of the st0ry you tell. For me the main issues are A) what information is given to the reader as direct sensory input, and what is evoked, and B) is it or is it not a time-binding medium?

Movies and music both give direct sensory input as their primary expression, and movies subsume music. And both are time-bound -- they force you to experience them at a determined pace, over a determined length of time.

Prose is my preferred form, because it maximizes evocation and minimizes time binding. A skilled prose reader and writer working in conjunction create an experience that involves all the sensual and intellectual capacities in a way that no other form can approach. In execution it is the most limited of art forms; in experience, the least. It offers far and away the widest set of limits of any form.

That said, it's all good. As I mention above, the limitations offered by other forms can be brought to writing to good effect. I mean, I say I want a playing field with as few limits as possible, but art thrives on limits.

3. I think this is an excellent example of the difference between story and plot. The story is the same; it's the way it's told that makes the difference. Now I feel like checking all the Kaspar Hauser variants out.

4. The social elements of the arts are always of interest -- especially since just about everyone I care to spend time with is creatively active one way or another. (I'll be honest. I like and respect everyone I deal with on a regular basis, but I really only want to spend time with intelligent, funny, creative people. Bottom line. That's why I have so much trouble with mental illness in my social circle, but that's another story.)

For me, music is specifically social. I play music as a way of spending time with people. And the visual arts are solitary. I can do them in a classroom or a public space, but when I'm doing them, I'm on my own. Although my recent sketching sessions have been pretty conversational.

But here's where our experiences diverge. When I started writing, it was in English class in high school. Then Creative Writing in college. The same in junior college. Then scriptwriting, where I worked with anywhere from two to eight people at any given time. Then to writing groups, where I was asked to participate in magazines. Then writer's workshops.

I mean, I spend a hell of a lot of time sitting in my room writing or drawing. Do you see me talking about all the social activities drawing has gotten me involved in? Tell you something. I've done some damned good drawings trying to get away from people.

Writing is an essentially social activity for me. And I think that part of whatever it is I got is that I include the reader in that social circle -- 0r, rather, I write as if I'm writing to someone I know.

5. Got to say, as a bassist, the idea that the bass is an instrument that reacts seems a bit off. My experience is that the bass forms a skeleton. The bassist ain't always going to be the one who decides what the bass line is, but once that's set? Everyone else follows the bass and drums.

And I know that somewhere in there is a fine, fine crystal of Pretentionist thought. But now? I cannot find. And so I go forth, weltering in my own hyper-aesthetesized intellectualism.



robp said...

Ah, a response to a ramble. Well done.

I didn't mean to say that the bass was an instrument that follows. The point was that the musicians were responding to each other, and there was a piano solo just prior to the bass line mentioned: it was a musical dialogue, and if the piano solo had been different I'm sure the bass line would have been as well.

I think the Rolling Stones at their peak were great because the entire band was a rhythm section. Keith took solos, but mostly he played the song.

Social writing is an interesting concept. It anticipates a response, but if you're lucky, how people respond to your writing is only a little different than anticipated. Now, if you're presenting your writing to other people such as a writing group or two, that response does actually influence the finished work, but you still don't know how readers will respond. You know only how you think they should.

Happy to hear that we're culture criminals. Didn't know anything worth being called culture remained, but still...

Sean Craven said...

Dude. This is a public space, so I will eschew specificity.

(Clasps hands behind back and cracks shoulders.)

When I refer to us as partners in culture-crime. If you consider the full scope of our activities in connection with artistic and literary affairs, I challenge you to name a nation in which either of us could not be placed in threat of legal prosecution. This is partially due to our natures, but mostly a matter of living in a culture that hates art.

Kinda sucks.