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August 12, 2002
Vol. II, No. 31

"Sullied Genius"
I came across this article today that suggests some of the world's greatest painters were, in fact "tracers," using various optical devices in their work. Here's an excerpt and the link:

Traces of Genius: Is art sullied by technology? By Charles Paul Freund, Reason magazine
"The true link between technology and art, regarded in modern times as something shameful, is becoming increasingly apparent, and the evidence suggests that artists' dependence on machines has been not only extensive but long-lived, going back centuries.
. . .
"The contemporary British painter David Hockney thinks that optics began to influence painterly representation as early as 1350. The most common tool, he argues, was long the camera lucida, a small device that threw an image from life directly onto a canvas. Painters were secretive about such aids, he argues, because they were trade secrets.
. . .
"The problem is that Hockney seems to be challenging an entire art worldview devoted to celebrating "genius," long sold as a spiritual quality unsullied by the material world. For some, the use of optical aids compromises genius, and art with it."

I've heard people suggest that Bach would have used synthesizers had they been available to him. I'm not so sure about that. I've worked with synthesizers almost as long as I've worked with organs and I have a hard time believing Bach would have found them useful. He may have found them interesting but given his penchant for "quality," I think he would have dismissed them as inferior.

Many of us are learning to use technology more and more each day. MIDI sequencers and sound modules are used to work out orchestrations and arrangements. Portable MiniDisc recorders capture improvisations and PCs running Finale software output printed manuscripts. Bach, on the other hand, did what he did with his brain, his ears and a pen. I'm personally grateful that he didn't have more technology at his disposal.
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Updated pages
Organ Links:
Fritsch Memorial Casavant Organ, Siebert Chapel, Carthage College, Kenosha, Wisconsin

Organ Schools:
Carthage College, Kenosha, Wisconsin

Have a great week and don't change a thing!

Dan Long

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