Roger Scruton’s Why Beauty Matters recorded for BBC2 is worth watching for anyone interested in the philosophy of beauty. I can’t help but sympathise with his despair at the current attitude to ‘art’, in which anything goes, anything is a work of art. Whilst his documentary largely focusses on visual art, the same is true of contemporary music. There is no skill involved in ‘composing’ these days. Same goes for orchestration. The best marks at university level seem to be given to those who shock, or have a radical idea, or simply write their composition in five minutes when drunk the night before it is due in. I wholly agree with Scruton that having an idea does not make one an artist. Being an artist is knowing what to do with the idea, how to transform the idea into something meaningful. The idea in itself is not art. Sticking spoons, hammers, papers and the like inside your piano might be an interesting idea, but it does not make the noise you produce ‘music’. It remains noise. It is worth spending an hour watching the programme, anyway, whether you agree about the state of modern art or not.
Scruton also has an interesting blog, which you can find here: