I have a friend whose daughter pays the cello. She loves YoYo Ma and we took her to see him last fall. One of the things we discussed with her after the concert was how much emotional range he has in his playing along with exemplary technique.
This same friend lost her mother recently and her childen sang at the funeral. The song was heart-renderingly beautiful and full of emotion. I heard a few missed notes as their voices cracked from the pain, but the song was a performance I will long remember.
Being an analytical sort as well as creative (I could no more stop analyzing than I could stop breathing), this got me to thinking about the nature of technique vice emotion in art and how to balance them
Technique is, by its very nature, analytical. What will happen if I do this? How can I fix that? How do I mix the colors to get that exact shade? Why is this not working and what needs to change? What fingering do I use to play High C on the flute? How can I make that gesture show up to the people in the back row?
Emotion is often the antithesis of analytical. We don't feel things because we have thought it through and decided that was the best response.
All good art has emotional content. That is what makes people relate to it. Unemotional art, music, acting, writing, etc. can have outstanding technique, but you will feel it is lacking something if you are in the audience. Art can be considered very good with a strong enough emotional content and less than perfect technique. Great art, I submit, needs both.
So how do you get from a young student studying the cello to the professional success of a Yo Yo Ma? How do you teach emotion? Can you teach emotion?
Actors treat emotion as technique to be learned. If the script calls for me to be sad, how can I tap into sadness and best display it to the audience. What gestures show sadness, how can I manufacture the feeling on cue when I'm not actually feeling sad tonight? So yes I'd say it can be learned. But many of us don't try to learn to express emotion through our work - relying on it's unconcious force instead. In the visual arts and possibly in music composition, the emotion often comes first. We create the art or the write the music to express something we already feel.
But as long as the emotion is driving the work unconciously, we can't get the most out of it. Performers can't afford to let emotion be unconcious. You can't effectively play the death scene while having a fit of the giggles.
So learning to wring the full emotion out of a work involves learning new technique. And like any new techique it feels awkward and wrong and may even make things worse at first. But push through the learning phase and we might just get better at our chosen art form.
Yet we still don't want to lose the freshness of that unconcious feeling. Manufactured emotion can feel very fake and the work will lose its power.
So for me, I'm going to be experimenting. I'll start the work with my unconcious emotional content. I'll use technique to bring it to a certain level, then deliberately start looking at the emotional content and what can I do to enhance it. Can I add some light to bring a sense of hope to the darkness of despair? What effect would brightening the colors have or graying them out? Do I need to make the edges more jagged or smooth them out? What can I suggest with small gestures or shadows or color changes? Will cropping the image make the emotions stronger? I don't know yet what techniques I'll find to enhance my work. But I know that unless I try, the work won't move to the next level.
I'm going to be experimenting with ways to enhance the emotion in my fractal art through techniques such as the use of color and lighting and shadows. I invite you to as an artist to experiment with deliberately changing the emotional content of your work and finding techniques to deepen it.
I know I usually post fractal art in my art diaries, but today I think I'll share a couple of emotionally-charged poems instead. The first relates to my grieving process. And the second describes the rescue chihuahua I adopted and his efforts to overcome 6 years of abuse.
Dark Side of the Moon
I live on the the dark side of the moon
Since you went away
I know you didn't want to go
It's dark and cold and lonely here.
I wandered lost for a long time
With my Rusty dog at my side
He was grieving too
So he was as lost as I
But he gave me comfort in the dark
Eventually my eyes adjusted and I could see beauty in the shadows
A little bit anyway
And Christopher came.
He had never lived anywhere except the dark side
But he brought a light with him
Now I could see more and the stark landscape was breathtaking
I live on the dark side of the moon
And have come to see it's charms
But I still miss the sun.
He is so afraid
Never learned to trust
First a tentative sniff
Then a tail wag
Oh wait was that too bold?
He backs away
He tries again
A longer sniff this time
Before backing off
"Everybody out "
He loves the yard
He races out the door
Tail wagging merrily
Then runs a lap around the yard
Jumping over tree roots
Time to come in
Oh no,I have to go past HER
No I can't
But months later, he can.
One day he trusts enough
To bark out loud
He takes a treat from HER hand
He lets HER pat him
If she puts some music on
Isn't music great?
He relaxes til the song is done.
Then OMG I'm in HER lap.
And once again he skitters away.
But trust is building