Senderos para el 2000 / Paths to 2000

(Personal vision about my aesthetic attitude, published in the magazine Senderos para el 2000 corresponding to the month of December 1996)

I conceive all artistic activity as the resolution of an aesthetic problem that the author poses to himself. In epic terms: art would be nothing but the battlefield on which the challenge with which the material used defies the creator is resolved, and which he usually accepts as decisively as irresponsibly. And in somewhat more prosaic terms, it could even be said that the best or worst result of the work of art is closely related to the best or worst use that the artist has known how to make of the consequences generated by the matter on which he works. The artist, in this sense, has much of the alchemist who tried to transmute metals into gold and silver, insofar as his objective is to transform a physical fact -the matter: stone, sound, oil or movement- into a psychological fact -the work, as a reflection of the Beauty that each author intimately feels and wishes to convey.
We know that sound, initially, has a series of qualities that can be reduced to absolute, purely physical terms (frequency, intensity, waveform ...), as well as that when said sound is put in relation to another or others, a series of consequences resulting from the transformation of these absolute qualities into relative arise: thus, frequency is transformed into height: intensity, into dynamics; the waveform, in timbre ... This relativization of the material is nothing more than the first step in the aforementioned transubstantiation of the physical fact into psychological fact: an indispensable initial step, which the music lover only needs unconsciously to be able to enjoy what he hears, but which the composer must elaborate through both a further development of purely sensory hearing, as well as intellectual and aesthetic reasoning and speculation.
The composers of each era -and those of ours are not only not alien to it, but have led it to consequences unthinkable for those of earlier eras- have always understood their role in this game of transformation, from the physical to the psychological, of the matter. What happens is that this transformation can be carried out in very different ways, and that some of them will give better results (or they will seem better) than others. In the first step referred to above, this relativization of the purely physical elements takes on the aspect of tension for the composer, a word that I wish to use very closely linked to its etymological root tendere, and therefore very closely related to trend. The tension / trend, in turn, admits different degrees of treatment: if it increases, it breaks, like any material, when it passes a critical point; if, on the contrary, it diminishes, the resulting lassitude makes it lose its contours. Between the two points there is a more or less extensive strip, which is what we can properly call tension. The work of the composer lies precisely in knowing how to move with ease within the limits of that critical band or band of the tension supplied or generated by the material put into play, attentive at all times that the degree of tension is neither too little nor too much, but always the just. An excessive indulgence in the generating self-sufficiency of the material will invariably lead it to impose its own laws, the tendency of which is always directed towards the simplest and most basic; on the contrary, an excess of intellectual control can end up distorting the tendencies of the material in such a way that they completely lose their identity, with a result devoid of sense for perception, only intelligible by means of calculation. Nowhere as in artistic creation is it more true that from the ridiculous to the sublime there is nothing more than one step.
In that order of things, the development of a technique or a language is only possible through constant -individual and joint- experimentation, to which it is subjected to that system of tendencies, which, because it is constantly boiling, never reaches to adopt the definite and permanent form that every style would like for itself (which, by force, must sooner or later lead to different degrees of rupture, either with the aesthetic principles established by the artistic environment, or with which each one had arrived to impose himself, with a blind faith in what was nothing more than virtual stability).
In short: every work of art is not, as a whole, but the result of a compromise between the tendencies generated by the material put into play (its tensions), and the ability of the composer to control and channel them in the desired direction. If we add to this, as José Antonio Marina very well points out in his Ética para náufragos (Ethics for castaways), that life itself is not also but an acceptable compromise between the desires and limitations of each person, we come to the conclusion that art can be understood as a vain attempt, on the part of each artist, to rebel against what existence itself imposes, seeking through the work an escape route to fatalism. Useless task, on the other hand, since the work can never reach that state of grace to which the artist aspires, since, on the one hand, its own limitations before each work prevent it, and the overcoming of the limitations in each work with which it was attacked always place a point beyond the desired goal of perfection. Consequently, after each work there must come a new one that tries to go beyond where the previous one left off. That is why the artist creates throughout his life, in a voluntary and frantic surrender to what, under the hypocritical disguise of elemental cathartic hygiene, ends up being nothing but a permanent state of dissatisfaction (ideal, on the other hand, as breeding ground of creativity).

Jose Luis Turina
Madrid, November 1996