New Lecture on Aesthetics

On May 21, 2015, I pre­sented a new lec­ture, “Intro­duc­ing Aes­thet­ics” to the 4th Grade at Cen­tral School in East Hanover, NJ. I asked the stu­dents about what they liked and didn’t like, start­ing with food, for instance. I asked who prefers a pizza for din­ner, and who prefers broc­coli? This ele­ment of a person’s “taste” can be applied to aes­thet­ics. We com­pared the Mona Lisa to a Picasso por­trait of Dora Maar, and we had a look famous exam­ples of archi­tec­ture and sculp­ture, too.

My per­sonal inter­est, of course, is music. I played exam­ples from the clas­si­cal world of Beethoven through to Shoen­berg. I also threw in some pop­u­lar music, from Elvis Pres­ley to the White Stripes. Many Elvis songs tells a nar­ra­tive story, with a begin­ning, mid­dle, and end. Many White Stripes songs, in con­trast, fea­ture lyrics that are frag­men­tary and some­what sur­re­al­ist. Also, the White Stripes are more likely to employ a yelling, shout­ing style of singing com­pared to Elvis’s croon.

But these facts are only the start of aes­thet­ics. One might say, “I like that par­tic­u­lar song because it is slow and pretty.” It’s easy to agree on the nature of the music, but the tricky thing is to deter­mine the “why” in your taste for slow and pretty music.

And of course, it is okay to like both Leonardo and Picasso, Elvis and the White Stripes. Some peo­ple even like broc­coli on their pizza.

Here are a few pic­tures from the day. One thing we all learned is that I point, point, point way too much!

Differences between portraits

Dif­fer­ences between portraits

Do you prefer straight lines and symmetry, or wavy countours?

Do you pre­fer straight lines and sym­me­try, or wavy countours?

About Richard D. Russell

This was written by Richard D. Russell, New York City based composer of fine music.