Function

Function is a much harder concept to define than Art, for me. I am not very happy with the term, but I will do my best do clearify what I put into it. Carl Dahlhaus (1970) calls it Genre-music, which in a way perhaps is a better term, but I will stick with Function, since that is the term I have got used to.

Functional music is music that has an ‘outer’ purpose. It may be dancing, it may be a ceremony (like a wedding or a funeral), it may be as a means for friends to hang out together. All this also implies that functional music is music where everyone is somehow participating, there is no real division between performer/creator and audience, everyone is necessary and the one would not exist without the other. Hence functional music depends on (the approval of) the collevtive and doesn’t really give space for the individuality.

Functional music is also music that follows clear and straight lines that are defined by this purpose: If I’m playing for dancing it is the danceability of the music which defines its value; If I’m playing togethere with a group of people it is the musics ability to fit into the taste, style and technical ability of the group that defines its value. This creates a very comfortable space to move within. As long as you’re keeping inside these frames there is a great deal of freedom and it is easy to know what is good and what is not. Quality in this context is about reproducing tradition and convention, fulfilling the requirements of the genre.

Together with Art, Function art can be said to make up a Dichotomy. Or rather: a duality.

Art

The definition of Art is a difficult one, something which has been subject to quite a few dissertations on its own. As I said, I am not after a perfect and water proof definition of Art, but rather I’m looking into what does Art mean to me. What connotations do I give the word, what meaning does it have to me. In the end it is a very powerful word, that in the end changed a lot of my thinking about myself and my music making. So what do I put in to it?

 When I think about it, I have had a tendency to favour the aspects of Art that easily could be considered positive.

Art for me means freedom. It means doing crazy and weird things. It is a perspective, a process and a way of thinking, rather than a result or a concrete object. It is a way of thinking that allows me to do whatever I like. A way of thinking that allows me to trust myself, and trust that what I do is Art. It means crossing my own boundaries, breaking my own limitations – techical and mental. Art is exploring. It means following a very personal and individual path, trusting your own judgement. It means leaving the comfort zone, moving into the unknown, away from the answers provided by following someone else’s path. It means unlimited space to fill up. Art means asking questions. Art means creating connections between things that were thought or concidered to be separated. It means diversity, it means communication, it means letting out the inner voices. It means feelings.

I have tended to think less about the more (in my opinion) problematic aspects of art:
that it creates a division between performer/creator and audience. That it is elitistic, a concept that is strongly associated with the (male, white) genius, high status and upper class.

I have also conciously chosen not to define Art in any strict way. I am aware that there are incoherent and paradoxal thinking in what is written here, in how I describe Art. But what is important to me is not to have an exact definition of Art, what it is and what it isn’t. What is important to me is just the experience, that when I started to think of myself as art, and my practice as an artistic practice, I experienced increased freedom and increased space within which I could work.

Together with Function art can be said to make up a Dichotomy. Or rather: a duality.

Function vs. Art

My definitions or associations

I have, on purpose, chosen not to define the two terms Function and Art very clearly. And I have chosen to define them very much myself, intuitively, since it is my own development I am trying to make sense of, and since it is the meaning of these words, and how I use them, within myself I am trying to describe.

In general, the interesting word is Art, a term that changed my way of thinking about myself and my music making. Function is a term I’m not very happy with, but I haven’t found a better one. I use it to describe, and refer to, the approach to folk music that I used to have, before my NoFo studies, and the approach that is present in the community I come from.

It is easy to see the two terms as forming a dichotomy, and I am aware that my usage of them also sometimes follow that pattern. However, in the end I try to form a synthesis, showing that they rather make up a duality, describing two different sides of the same thing (in this case music).