Art and Scientific Thought: Historical Studies Towards a Modern Revision of Their Antagonism

By Martin Johnson | Go to book overview
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PART TWO
Examples of Imaginative Stimulus through Structure and Symbolism

Chapter 4
Introduction

The five essays following are intended as providing background and examples for illustration of the foregoing discussion of imaginative art. In Part I this subject was brought into contact with scientific notions of Pattern and Form and the criteria of Communicability. A distinction was developed between imaginative and representational arts; this suggests that in these five studies we need care little what concrete object is resembled by the shape of a carving or what narrative is told in a poem or drama, compared with a more important decision as to what such structures, visual or verbal, can convey in stimulating the imagination of beholder or reader by means of their Form. It is, therefore, no accident that the most abstract of Beethoven's music is placed in the same category with arts in which 'things' may sometimes seem to be represented but in which the stimulation of a state of mind is of greater moment.

The essay on Beethoven illustrates the least disputable application of these principles from Part I; for the dependence upon structural features is complete, and no 'subject matter' intrudes with any programme of representation from history or external nature. A confession of one hearer's feelings in imaginative response is no more than an incitement to infinite variety in the response of all other hearers. This essay, like some of its fellows, draws upon the unfamiliar in art-history although the artist has been for a time the most popular of musicians. For it concerns not the works for which he is best known but the final phase of his activity, in which he appears in a character seldom recognised by most of his admirers. Beethoven's last quartets afford much insight into a view of art as pattern communicating with the hearer's imaginative powers. I am making the unusual assertion that this phase of Beethoven's music is not only eminently hearable, but

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