Space, Time, and Memory: Examining the Disconnect between Looking at Contemporary Art and Listening to Contemporary Music

September 20, 2020


This article considers the paradox of why lay people can appreciate modern visual art yet regard contemporary music as noise. Why do art lovers look at Picasso’s Guernica (1937), for instance, and proclaim it a masterpiece and yet when they listen to a piece like Ligeti’s Atmosphères (1961), they consider it noise? I have always been intrigued by this dichotomy. To address this question, I shall consider the spatial nature of painting versus the temporal quality of music, modes of visual and aural perception (and how they influence the aesthetic attitudes of viewers and listeners), and Gestalt theory. The goal of this article is not to arrive at a dispositive answer to the question I have asked but to pose possible responses that can form the basis for further inquiry and research.

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