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Repost: In search of the perfect expression

One of my … flaws, I guess, is that I consider myself an artist. I typically prefer the aural media to visual, but I’m not afraid to try visual media.

I guess a few definitions are in order.

Aural media is something you hear, obviously, but there are some forms that can be considered aural even though they are visually perceived. Words, for example, are aural, even when you read them, at least for me; when I read something, I hear it in my head, typically in my own voice (or, occasionally, Grover’s. But I don’t talk about that.)

Visual media, on the other hand, is anything that is enjoyed by the eye. A painting is visual (duh). A photograph, visual. A video, visual. (Go figure.)

There is also tactile media, stuff you feel – and I suppose there’s olfactory as well, although I have no idea how you would exploit those media artistically.

One of the hallmarks of Jewish culture is that it’s aurally-oriented, even though many individual Jews are not.  Hebrew thought is based around concrete concepts, which doesn’t always translate well to English, and as a result tends to be… picturesque, let’s say.

Western thought – Hellenistic thought – was based around theory, mind, abstract concepts – thus Aristotle thought women had fewer teeth than men by inference rather than actually, like, forming a hypothesis and testing it.

I find I tend to try to bridge the two modes. I’m an abstract thinker who translates everything into concrete expression, if you will; I prefer the abstract internally (thus, my songs tend to influence expressions, rather than express things themselves) but translate into concrete concepts to actually express them (and thus, the abstract concepts in my songs end up being translated into things like a concept of wind, or water, or growing things, because I’m a bit of a flake.)

I actually have a really hard time writing, even though I write as a facet of my everyday employment. (I can hear you now: “if it’s so hard, you dweeb, stop and save us the pain of reading it.” I am ignoring you.) The biggest challenge for me is maintaining a single, straightforward progression of thoughts.

I think in a sort of lattice-work; I can’t say “the sky is blue” without that thought being accompanied by “why are clouds white? How does a bird fly? How does a plane fly? I wonder if I could devise a better shape for submarines. How does Google Go compare to P2? Why have I never learned any Algol?”

If that’s a confusing chain of thought, I’m not surprised. Actually, writing it down makes the progression rather obvious; it demonstrates a marvelous lack of ability to stay on topic but hey! Imagine that happening all at the same time, and maybe you’ll see how my internal dialogue sounds.

Therefore, even art is hard for me, because I can’t ever decide who I am in terms of how I express myself. My written poetry tends to follow a sort of spondee rhythm (much like Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl,” which repeats “who…” to begin many lines.) The structure I follow helps me stay somewhat on topic; I use sort of a Hebrew expressive form of “A contrasted with B,” using a common prefix.

And that’s just the written word. Visually, the medium in which I struggle the most, has a much harder time, since I not only have no familiar structure to work from, but I don’t even think in imagery in the first place. I have little concrete art.

I have a drawing of my hand, which I’ll scan someday, and there’s the meatball thing I put online a bit ago, but … you’re really looking at the limits of my concrete, visual art that I find acceptable. The meatball – “Comet,” I called it – was actually more of an experiment in … well… smudging pastels.

It’s also an exercise in futility for me to actually focus on making a point, which is part of what makes songs easier for me than essays or paintings; in a song, the listener participates enormously, and I can build my own impressions without worrying about whether the listener “gets it” or not.

All I have to worry about in music is whether it sounds good; the rest is gravy.

With written word and visual media, though, it has to make sense. The reader/observer has to come away thinking “Oh, I see,” somehow – at least, that’s the mindset I have that upsets me so when using these mediums.

I’ve written an awful lot in an attempt to help bridge that divide, to get my own writing to have focus, and to help others find that same focus.

I doubt that’ll change.

What’s really funny: did you know that this blog entry started out as an exploration of the pull quote, to see if it could be used to make my written thought more linear by breaking out parentheticals into their own stream of text? And this is what you get out of me trying to find a way to do hundreds of footnotes in hypertext. 🙂

Author’s Note: Another repost.

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