New York Philharmonic Open Rehearsal

On Thursday, November 19, I attended the New York Philharmonic Open Rehearsal at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. This was the first time I had attended an open rehearsal or heard the New York Philharmonic play live. Upon entering, it was interesting to note how relaxed the performers appeared, most likely because it was only a rehearsal and not the real show. As everyone was taking their seats, the performers would come and go as they pleased until the conductor came out and the rehearsal was ready to begin.

The conductor, Riccardo Muti, was rather entertaining during the rehearsal. He would consistently turn to face the audience and talk to us about certain things. It was somewhat difficult to hear everything he was saying, given our seats were closer to the back, but some of the things that I was able to make out were interesting. I felt like this was a good way to keep the rehearsal relaxed, but in a good way. Of course Muti would not want his performers to feel that they do not have to work hard at all, but a little break in between would help calm down any of the performers if they did not play their part right. Muti’s drive for perfection was evident when he would stop the performance, say something to the performers, and the piece would be replayed. Clearly, Muti was not impressed with that portion of the concert, and wanted it to be perfected.

The performers played their pieces very well, which is why they are a part of the Philharmonic. I was amazed at how wonderful the music sounded, wondering how they managed to make all the various instruments work in harmony. In addition, it was interesting to see how all the performers knew exactly when to enter in the piece. Only many years of experience would allow someone to be able to perform that well.

Overall, the Open Rehearsal was a great experience. The music that was performed sounded magnificent, and considering it was a rehearsal, the final concert would most likely have been something to remember. The conductor included the audience in the rehearsal, which made the audience feel better because they were no longer idle spectators. Although this was my first open rehearsal and viewing of the New York Philharmonic, it was certainly something to remember.

Heart vs. Head

The most unique characteristic of art is that it will never be the same. People who create it express different emotions, feelings, values, and beliefs into their work, truly making it their own. People can interpret it in different ways, but only the artist knows the true meaning behind his or her art. Science, on the other hand, must meet a unanimous consensus with everyone before it becomes truth. To create a mutual understanding of the world around us we cannot have various interpretations of it (for example, when understanding the shape of the earth, there cannot be 3 varying answers [“It’s flat!” “No, it’s a sphere!” “I bet $5 that it’s an octagon!!!!!!!”]). Accepting that there can be interpretations of the scientific world would bring development and the evolution of technology and academics to better enhance our world to a standstill.

So, why is Art? It is because its one of the few ways in which we can defy logic. One can be correct and wrong, brilliant and an idiot, simple and complex. Insanity is welcome; miscalculations and wrong measurements can add depth. The only limit to one’s creation is the limit of their imagination. No one has to agree on a mutual understanding because there doesn’t have to be a set definition. Art comes from the heart, not from the head.

Is Science more Attractive to the Human Mind?

Humans have a tradition of seeking explanations for the world’s workings; we have been searching for answers to limitless questions for thousands of years. One of the primary means of explanation has been the sciences. Biology, chemistry, physics, geology, etc.: all provide humans with effective ways to rationalize the world. Since humans long for simplicity over complexity, they will naturally be more attracted to concrete answers rather than abstract ideas. This is where the arts meet difficulties in mainstream acceptance. While science gives facts, evidence, laws, and theorems, laid out and accepted by the majority, art presents us with abstract ideas and interpretation. Even the most straightforward of paintings may be interpreted in different ways.

The problem of individual interpretation separates art from science, but in some ways unifies them as well. Many refined practices in science are referred to as “arts” and involve interpretation. Humans decide what to take away from scientific data, just as they do from a painting. Also, human error is not unknown from science. As Lehrer’s quote points out, no measurement can be perfect. This is due to a combination of human error as well as inability; humans do not possess the ability to measure absolutely perfectly, as the decimal point being measured to can never extend to the infinity mark required for perfection.

Beauty, Biology, and Art

Beauty is somewhat of an abstract idea, considering each person can perceive appearances differently. What one person finds pleasing to the eye, another person may not. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines beauty as “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.” Biologically, humans are innately attracted to symmetry, and certain other qualities. This stems from the evolutionary desire to find a healthy reproductive partner. For example, a female with wider hip would be more attractive because this quality eases childbirth. Mathematically, the Golden Ratio is considered to be most aesthetically pleasing and was used frequently by Renaissance architects and artists.

Personally, however, an individual’s concept of beauty can be completely separate from another’s. Runway models are purported by their industry to be iconic of beauty. Many people see them to the contrary and feel that they are far to thin. Thus everyone has their own concept of beauty, although certain things may influence that concept from a cultural standpoint. Today’s American culture tends to value plump lips, for example. In the Heian era of Japan’s history, women practiced ohaguro, the fashion of dying one’s teeth black. In that era, black things like lacquer glaze were seen as beautiful. This may seem strange to us today, but it was completely normal in the Heian culture.

In art, personal preference to a piece can be strongly linked to whether that person finds a particular piece visually appealing. I myself am one of these people who desires aesthetically pleasing qualities in art. However, what I may consider ugly, someone else might think is a masterpiece.

Art and Science

While art sometimes unites an audience and its creator in a basic emotion, its trademark seems to be the vast spectrum of reactions along which it sweeps people, rather than a fixed, specific thought to which it targets them. If art simply reflected reality, if it did not depend upon the idiosyncrasies of each artist, no one should attempt to paint another oak tree. It’s been done before; that bark, those leaves can certainly mean no more today than yesterday, if the view is all the same. But it is not. Staggering infinite possibilities of human perspective inform and produce art. More than art helps us to see the oak tree – how green a leaf may be, how its color changes with the season, how its shadow falls and ripples on a lake – art helps us see each other and ourselves – how we fear, embrace change, death, loss, the unknown, growth, stability, peace, shelter, beauty. But if successful, it rarely tells us how to see, but rather asks. It proposes something our minds may nibble and gnaw at for moments, months, lives.

Science permits us another strain of understanding. It gives us problems and questions as well, but unites us in answers and facts upon which we may stand, speak, search, from which we may climb together to continue and progress. It gives us relations and regularities upon which to depend, ways we may all see things the same. We choose science as our main method of understanding the world because it is more reliable than art, and because it affects the physical nature of our existence in such drastic ways. No one gets the leisure time to create much culture or art if no one’s figured out how to cultivate plants or cure and prevent some basic illnesses. But beyond these practical considerations, science also often gives us the very basis we require for art. We must all understand the concept of oak tree and shadow and perspective before we can add human meaning to the tree’s representation or distortion in art.

“Alias Man Ray: The Art of Reinvention”

This afternoon, in the spirit of Chanukah, I journeyed to the Jewish Museum on the corner of 92nd street and 5th avenue. Although the museum generally charges a $12 admission fee (unless you are a Macaulay student), it is free for all visitors on Saturdays.

The first floor was dedicated to a Man Ray exhibit and, consequentially, I never got to the other floors. Man Ray, born Emmanuel Radnitzky, was an artist in every sense of the word. He painted, sculpted, wrote, photographed, and filmed. The exhibit included a filmed, biographical interview with Ray. “I’m a free man,” he said, referring to his ability to make whichever type of art he wanted to make whenever he felt like making it. The film was displayed last, and so I saw it after I viewed his wide variety of work. It was a touching conclusion. The other pieces included Obstruction, a dangling network of wooden coat hangers, as well as various self-portraits. Obstruction stood out because it was the only piece that was suspended from the ceiling. It cast an intricate shadow upon the white wall behind it. In fact, many of Ray’s pieces emphasized the beauty of shadows.

Perhaps Ray was symbolizing his shadowed roots; he changed his name and hid his Russian-Jewish identity throughout most of his life.  Although Ray was forced to flee from Paris during World War II, he avoided his roots and attempted to remain anonymous. At some point during his persecution, Ray began to confront his past and to symbolically work with primary colors. He painted the famous La fortune, which is now permanently displayed on the fourth floor of the Whitney Museum.

The exhibit seemed to be organized chronologically. Ray’s different “eras,” and therefore his different approaches to his background, were assembled in their own rooms. My favorite room included what I believe was work from a humorous era; he airbrushed paintings to make them look like photographs and exposed objects on light-sensitive paper to create cameraless ‘rayographs.’” *

“Alias Man Ray: The Art of Reinvention” is a fascinating exhibit, but one that requires time and attention. I recommend it to painters, photographers, scuplters, and filmmakers alike, since all of those art forms are present. Just don’t expect to have time to look at the rest of the museum!

* Source of quote:


Beauty is a complex matter. There is no concrete definition as to what is beautiful and what is not. We have all had the experience where we believed something was beautiful, but our friends or family begged to differ and tried to prove to us that whatever the object was, it was hideous. Beauty cannot be explained in words, for it is something that one feels and believes. The closest we may come is to say that beauty is that which makes one feel good and interested in the object exemplifying beauty. A piece of art is subject to varied interpretation, with some people believing it to be beautiful, while others may consider it the most hideous thing they have ever seen. We cannot say that those who disagree with out views of the work of art are incorrect because we all have our own opinions and are allowed to decide for ourselves what is beautiful. It is not our choice what we believe is beautiful. Although we may give reasons as to what we see in the art that makes it beautiful and spectacular, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to truly explain why we love that work.

In our culture, we view beauty as appealing to the eye. However, we run into the problem again with what is appealing to our individual eyes? Where one person may think somebody is beautiful, another person may disagree. This does not mean that the first person was wrong; it simply means that they have different views of beauty. When we discuss models, we automatically think of beauty. Models have always been seen as some of the most beautiful people around and that is why they wear particular clothes from designers. They are telling everyone that this is what beautiful people wear, and if you want to be beautiful too, you should wear these clothes.

Although beauty is profound in our culture and in art, it is difficult to say that it is a necessary component. Our culture and art view beauty in indefinite terms; there is not concise definition. Therefore, it is a problem to place a person or a work of art in either the category of beautiful or not. This decision is up to the individual and will most likely stay there. Although beauty is appealing, we cannot say it is a necessary component unless we figure out how to appeal to everyone’s opinion of what is beautiful and what is not.

Science and Art

When we try to understand how the world functions, we turn to science over art for a few reasons. One such reason is that science is exact, while art is open to discussion. When scientists calculate how much energy is given off by a certain reaction or what the yearly increase in world temperature is, these values are exact. The scientists use formulas that provide values that are known to be correct because these formulas have been proven to work consistently and properly over time. On the other hand, art is subject to interpretation. Even a simple drawing can be interpreted hundreds of ways by different people. Each person would have his or her own opinion about what the drawing depicts and means to him or her. This type of ambiguity in meaning is not possible in science, where there is only one answer to a problem. You cannot provide five different values as answers on a chemistry exam; there is only one correct solution.

Nevertheless, what art lacks in exactness, it makes up for it in aiding science. When a new building is to be constructed, thinking of the design for the building is art. When the architect is drawing up blueprints for the building and attempting to think of ways to make the building stand out among the other buildings in the area, he or she is an artist at that moment. Once the design is established, it takes science to work out the mathematics involved in constructing a building, such as which angles the components must be positioned so as not to cause the building to collapse. In this way, science and art work in harmony to produce a beautiful, stable building.

Art + Science = ♥

Why do so many universities create “Arts and Sciences” programs? Why does a biology major graduate with a “Bachelor of the Arts” degree? Why are these two seemingly opposite fields squished together so often?

Scholars in every field have the same goal; they strive to understand how the world works. A microbiologist does this broadly; he studies earth’s diversity. An artist does it on a smaller scale; he studies how his environment affects his perceptions and emotions. The large, concretely calculated, and often-observable models of science cannot serve humanity without the structural support of art. Conversely, the products of less-calculated creativity cannot serve humanity without the larger plans of science. The two go hand in hand.

Yes, we can measure emotions; we can analyze the readings of an EEG. Yes, it is sometimes difficult to explain a mathematical theorem because, when applied to a physical situation, it can produce unexpected results. This, however, is the point. Using both art and science produces a much more complete picture of our world than using either art or science alone.

I entered this class believing that art is a poor use of resources, but that it is acceptable because it gives work to those who are uninterested in the sciences. I could not have been more wrong. This semester’s exposure has shown me that free minds, minds that are not restricted by rules, models, and data, are infinitely valuable. I still believe that the creativity that goes into science is extremely undervalued, but I now understand that art’s purpose is undervalued as well. Art is often planned and calculated, while science is often spontaneous. A simple spectrum, such as the one in the “who gets to call it art” movie, takes hours of experimentation.

So, alright, I’ll ask it:

Why not?