Sketches from Michele Trenti's essays


Assuming a work of art’s intrinsic potential to "trigger" certain inner journeys, it is clear that each individual explores those pathways based on one’s own ability to observe and elaborate the elements offered by the work for that purpose. A basic predisposition is necessary on the part of the listener (in the case of a musical work) to follow and be moved by —in a broad sense—the work. With this in mind, it is difficult to define the concept of originality, which has always been used with considerable superficiality and was particularly abused in the last century. However, more than a presumptive meaning, it seems to be something that we find in every important work from any era and style. Those who are able to see certain details from a new point of view or detect new formal references can grasp the originality in a work that others, from their own point of view, consider trivially obvious. To find originality in a work, there are those who feel the need to explain that what is before them has never been done before. Paradoxically, even performing a copy of a work may be said to be something new—at least when one wants to assign a particular importance to the copy.

Listening Intermittently

It seems to me that the conscious listening to a piece of music should, in varying degrees, be considered a process that, although taking place in an uninterrupted period of time, proceeds in an intermittent way, at least in the vast majority of cases. The greater the awareness of listening and the listener’s concentration, the more the process extends to the point of a continuity that would connote an ideal listening and be complete when no element of musical discourse eluded the listener’s consciousness. In the subsequent mental processing of the musical message, each perceived element is placed in relation to the others, creating a multi-level network of formal structures. Generally, the amateur listener’s manner of listening is largely sporadic. This is due to the fact that, among other things, the moments of great impact are more important to him than the logical consistency of the discourse. Each musical element not semantically understood leaves a gap in the perceived structure, whereas listening repeatedly to a song makes it easier to extend the continuity of a musical experience.

A Common Misunderstanding of Critics

In art criticism, a fundamental misunderstanding that constantly appears is that how an artist conceives an idea is very different from how he expresses it in a real work. In fact, the decisive step is the successive one, when the idea actually takes shape as a finished work (often transcending the original idea). What makes an artist-creator original is not so much his ability to invent meanings as it is his ability to express them, i.e., to render them in a form that conveys the work’s meanings to others. Of course, this communication is contingent on the potential audiences having the proper cultural and linguistic codes to understand the message. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that, in art, although there may be a will, there is not always a way. Many people, amateurs and untalented professionals, are enthusiasts with interesting ideas (at least in their own eyes), yet they simply cannot express the results of their work in an appropriate manner. These ideas thus remain in a latent state that is aesthetically unexpressed. Nevertheless, in the true artist, this vision and the flashes of abstract conception of ideas are very important as they awaken the creativity that leads to the production of a real work.

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