There’s a large chance that most of you reading this blog know something about conceptual art.  For example, “perform a disciplined action” or “draw a straight line and follow it” focus on concept–an abstract idea or formulation of the mind.  Some of these concepts are quite interesting, and many are provocative or even controversial.

I don’t doubt that these are art.  After all, anything can be art.  That’s right; I said it.  Anything presented as something created, something newly organized, can be art.  But, are these conceptual pieces music?

I think that after all is said and done, anything that sounds–anything that makes a sound–can be considered music.  The days of controversy that Cage introduced are gone, and the battle is over.  The debate over what sounds are music and what aren’t is futile and comes down to silly semantics, so I think it’s obvious that the day is won for those claiming that any sound can be music.

But, to return to the question at hand, since conceptual pieces don’t always make sound, I don’t think they’re necessarily music.  For example, let’s say your conceptual piece is the famous slogan “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”.  You decide to perform it by tossing empty soup cans from last night’s dinner into your recycling bin like a basketball player.  Whether you do this in your driveway or in a concert hall, the cans are going to make a clamor and roll around, creating a ruckus of a sound.  This is conceptual art that is music.  However, if you decided the night before to perform this piece, you might decide to reduce your soup consumption by not opening another can of soup after you’ve already poured two into the pot on the stove.  You’re still performing the piece (by reducing), but you haven’t created any sound.

I think that silence alone shouldn’t be considered music; silence with sound is music, but silence with no sound is nothing musical.  So, in my view conceptual art that results in the creation of a sound is music, but conceptual art that does not result in the creation of a sound is not music.

To conclude, it is indeed possible for conceptual art to be musical.  But, it is still very possible for it to not be musical.  It depends on the piece (and very often with conceptual pieces) the performance.  While there is no doubt that it is art, take heed–not all art is music.

What do you think?  Do you think this is a valid assessment?

Thanks for reading,

Dan