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Maintaining Elite & Traditional Art & Aesthetics in a Juvenile Culture.

The Arts are the Foundation of Communication.

The Encyclopedia Britannica defines “the arts” as “modes of expression that uses skill or imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects, environments, or experiences that can be shared with others.”  Good definition but with one caveat: these “modes of expression,” communicate narratives or feelings. To be specific, the arts are the historical basis for all levels of human communication. If we look at the pre-history of what we now call “the arts,” language, and expression in general, it is apparent that communication is the seed of artistic expression, and thus are directly and indirectly responsible of all forms of human communication.

What is now "art," in prehistory, was a technique to interact and collaborate to establish a basis for mutual survival, by acquisition of food and shelter, as well as ritualization of acculturation in community, protection, mating and reproduction. This technique is simply language. Expression arose out of the necessity for families and communities to interact and understand each other. The grammar and syntax of language created uniform codes by which communication was possible.

For our ancient ancestors, "the arts,” were then simply a vehicle to communicate both feelings and transmission of data regarding hunting, mating, migration, danger and more. The first forms of language were: stomping and drumming, from which dance and music grew. Singing and drumming from which music evolved. Petroglyphs and pictographs preceded visual art and writing. As these forms of communication grew more complex, differing genre of expression representing ideas also expanded. As these ideas grew, so grew the complexity of these forms into what we now know as language.

The arts further evolved as a ritual form of communication, became an expression of beauty and/or a reflection of our humanity and world around us. This is how the arts became the primary foundation of human culture. Because communication arose from the creative explication, as communication expanded the result of creative expression have become as important to the continued history of human survival, serving the necessity of food, shelter and continuity of humankind and civilization.

From the point of a view of current fine and performing artists defending our profession; communication and how it is expressed, exemplifies the necessity of the profession as imperative to the evolution as of man, but more importantly, to help prevent the extinction of our species by our own hands.

Though language has evolved into a separate study to aesthetic, it has the same structure as art: it has form, rhythm, symmetry, and structure. It has rules that maintains each of the thousands of linguistic forms, and it is maintained over generations.  Like art it evolves, and it has a history of originalism that etymological historians can trace. Even our computers have coded languages that share these principles with art and aesthetics. But, unlike operating systems, the primary purpose of art is not so specific as data or profit. The purpose of the arts varies widely with opinion and belief. But there is little doubt that part of the purpose is to inform transform and commune with one’s self and others.

A Civilization that Diminishes Art Degrades Itself

Without art as a form of communication, ritual science, and its evolution into aesthetics, there would have been no language with which we can interact and cohabit.  Without art and aesthetics, no culture or ability to interconnect. Without communication and culture, no community, no country, no civilization, no us.  Now that linguistic communication has evolved divergent but parallel to art, aesthetics or the practice of beauty, expression, semiosis and feeling, quietly maintains our culture, similar the necessity of particle structures to maintain form in the universe.  Art and communication maintain the systemic function of civilization society and culture.

Without communication for people to relate and art to express to those who desire to experience a form of communication beyond a specific linguistic code, civilization collapses. Historical precedence has established that chaos and anarchic social mindlessness ensues, when the arts cannot flourish, or worse, they are degraded by vulgarity, violence and spectacle.

The empires of Rome, the Mongols, the Hapsburgs, the Ottomans, Nazis and more all failed. The leadership’s fall into corruption of war, power mongering, political gesturing, placed the average citizen’s life in jeopardy, into poverty from taxation and oppressive law, and often senseless war. Any focus upon art and collaboration with community gets lost in mistrust and fear from the tyranny of society’s failed governance.  What is rarely recognized by historians is that below all the debauchery of the oligarchy, the arts were either supressed by threat of violence, or even the common people became debauched, and if able, followed popular trends and fashion that supported only a few towards wealth, fame, and power. If the arts are degraded, the civilization in which it resides, fails!

Could you imagine if to speak, you’d have to pay for every word or sentence that came out of your mouth or pen?  Language would become scarce, overpriced and useless. Our civilization would fall apart and, like Genesis 11:8-9, “the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.”

Art has been no different. Most artists revel in the diversity of genre and ability to morph, transcend political and structural boundaries, and often be enhanced by them. But yet, when art and aesthetics are raped by degrading its form for the purpose of being sold for profit,

that diversity and flexibility is damaged.

The Degradation and Abuse of Art as a Commodity and Product

Oddly, the more popular, and amateur the artist, the more people access the artist, yet only peripherally their work. But, the more detailed and complex the art, the less accessible it is. Why? Because the western mindset is that art has no value. The cheaper and more mindless it is, the easier the market makes it to access. If art is not a necessity, it has little value as a form of communication of worth. To this uneducated audience it is simply mindless entertainment. If it doesn’t satisfy our tastes or low-end sense of aesthetics, it is worthless. “Why pay money towards something I don’t understand, anyway”? To make matters worse, we have not made great art an institution, a legal necessity. Rather, we have allowed mediocrity in aesthetics to reign supreme in a corporate capitalist system where selling to the masses as lowest common dominator has literally become l'état des arts.

The problem with an undereducated public, specifically in the arts, is that it reflects the lack of education in critical and creative thinking. The further socio-economic belief that the arts are naught more than a child’s game or a pipe dream for celebrity wannabes, builds the ignorance of an audience whose collective mind has been conditioned to only be engaged by fantastic spectacle, loud anthem or romantic tunes, and mesmerizing visual display. This mindset has been promoted through populism, advertised as competitions, coliseum games with ritual violence in the form of sport.  The displays are performed by untrained amateurs thrust into the spotlight as overpaid entertainers. These spectacles tunes and displays are a proxy for actual artistic expression, because they are only marketing tools for such productions for sale.

The importance of the arts is critical to maintaining and sustaining a sane society. Because our declining superstructure of culture has shrunk to consider the arts as a luxury, they are at risk of being eroded to “what the market will bear.”  A society out of balance, places itself as a competitor against others in the community as more important than communal cohesion and trust. It replaces professionalism with amateurism, replaces localized excellence with mundane populism. When these cultural cysts are marketed for profit, the arts always suffer.

Instead of being a mirror to society, the arts have become coopted by marketeers to exploit, who then reduced them into an exhibit of mindless distraction. The intent of the arts as an expression and transmission of beauty, sensorial imagery, depth, and integration of transformative ideas is scuttled. Sensationalism, spectacle, and cheap entertainments supersede and replace this depth.

The arts have often become co-opted by amateurs seeking fame, wealth, and power, who will use market manipulation, repetition of advertising, coercing the arts-undereducated populous, (of whom they are a part), into believing their mass-produced has lasting merit. The process by which the arts are lowered to a process of accumulation of wealth, begins with marketing persona of the artist first or simultaneously with the product.  Because in marketing art as a commodity, the artist is the main product. The artist is recognized as of primary importance, not the work the artist performs or creates.  Repetition of exposure of the entertainer in various aspects of their life is repeated in publicity as often as possible, in market publication, media, social media advertising, public and sometimes political events. Then the “work” they create supposedly substantiates the artists themselves as the product for sale – not the performance itself.

The basis of popular entertainers’ work requires that the highest percentage of the populous has memorized the image and knowledge of the performer due to constant exposer or creator of the product.  Therefore, the recording, film and/or performance, must have three foundational characteristics all based upon marketing of entertainer and low-art as product:

1.    KISS “Keep it Simple, Stupid.”  Emphasis upon the stupidity of the public’s need for lack of complexity.  The content of the work the entertainer performs or must be simplistic so the public can understand it. In music, the requisite is: (a) repetition of rhythm and phrasing, with (b) little contrast in harmony, (c) as little melodic modulation from the tonic has possible, (d) 2 minutes 10 seconds long, (e) as close to 60 beats per minute as possible and more. In film and some stage, no scene should exceed five minutes, using language of a child or an uneducated adult, using actor-celebrities who present narrative through overacted characterizations.  The same is true for formula writing and characterization; further, each scene should leave the observer hanging onto a plot twist after every few phrases or paragraphs. With the exception of writers, most artists and performers whose work is being promoted through marketing, usually have little training in their field. The few who do, must dumb it down because their audience requires elementary thought, language and performity. Brevity is king. This is because most of the audience does not have the intellect or capacity to absorb complexity nor continuity of action; that is, unless the production is sensational.  (A great symphony, ballet or film cannot contain an uneducated mind for longer than a few minutes.)

2.    Sensationalism and Spectacle.  The production quality that surrounds, contains and focuses the performer.  Whether it be a pop song, film or stage show, book/narrative, or spectacle must make the performer, (singer, actor, or sometimes, dancer) perform as spectacular, mesmerizing, titillating, over-the-top as possible. It is the directors, writers and technical creators who have the immense amount of talent who usually create the production of whom the audience is unknowingly magnetized or energized.

3.    Create an Addicted Public. The package described above must be marketed like addictive intoxicants. The objective is to addict the public to whatever mind-numbing drone the artist and producers’ research uncovers to magnetize a weak-minded public. The substance can be musical, film, arena or speakeasy spectacle, or flashy visuals. This is like a drug-dealer in a dark alleyway selling illegal depressants or amphetamines. But instead, it is marketed in media, billboards and magazines like tobacco and alcohol used to be; guns and prescription drugs are today. Keep in mind, these producers, directors, and writers are very often brilliant. They make a fortune because having so totally researched their audience, their subsequent use of manipulation through sensationalism and production value is prodigious.

This formula has been du rigeur in since the advent of mass media has promoted folk forms into populism in the last 80 years or so. It has gotten much worse now because of spread of populism through social media. This formula has been adopted by businesspeople in all areas of service and commodity and used to great effect by narcissistic-borderline demagogues to great effect, such as Donald Trump and his lemming-esque MAGA movement.

The simpler the form, the more opportunities there are for people who have few intellectual resources or capacity to engage with society. The producers and investors in these spectacles, employ dark psychology and mind-conditioning that abuses communication, art and the unsuspecting publics’ attention to attain its goal: wealth, fame, and often, power. Mass communication speaks like a child, because the majority public is essentially aesthetically illiterate, or only literate to the point of pre-adolescence for whom popular art forms are designed to infect. Sadly, a captive ignorant audience is usually unaware that they are being played for a tidy profit. It is art sabotaged, stolen from the public of its original intent as transformative and transcendent.

Art and Aesthetics as Literacy.

Without pure artisanship, expression has no meaning. Without pure artisanship, aesthetic expression doesn’t exist. Expression is pointless unless it has something necessary to say, but when it does, it is useless if it is not heard. True art need not be performed or displayed redundantly on a loop. True art communicates its message directly, but in a language that is fully realized. It speaks with an adult vocabulary and grammar. In the lack of this literary coherency, lies the folly of modern western culture. The shallow banality of branded messaging has buried the depth of the profound.

The arts are the standard by which each culture and subculture grows. Stable culture bases its aesthetic standard upon enriching community, not monetization and the accumulation of profit. But, if we continue to follow pointless populism, and further, we fail to discern the mediocrity of pop-culture from the refinement of rare mastery, there will be no more society in which culture evolve and grow. So, what of art, created with mastery, that is lasting and has depth of value? Fortunately, it does exist, though with less attention and financing. These artists are mostly educated and principled. They are individuals with grassroots funding or organized non-profit organizations. Most perform and display work in the background of our society, using legitimate marketing to be seen, heard and read. Therefore, it has a smaller audience of educated observers:

-       The “Grammies” were originally created and still are awarded to master artists. But the greater public is often unaware because those awards occur off-camera before the pop-music awards are televised. There are thousands of works created in traditional ethnic, classical, traditional folk, and jazz music we never hear about in popular media. 

-       Independent film is big. Theatre extends well beyond the public-school musical in small to large theaters. But, you have to be curious to find them.

-       Great writing is prolific and wins the Booker, Pulitzer and Nobel prizes. However, the money is in either violent or romantic pulp-fiction, because that’s what the public mindlessly consumes.

-       Fine and new visual art is prevalent, but often is morphed and becomes absorbed by populism and borrowed for marketing.

-       Quality in choreographic composition is common in Europe, Asia, South America, and elsewhere, but not as much in the US and some other young cultures.

There is no loss, when demographics are not the issue. In the case of true art, the number of attending audience is moot when the object of that market is of more importance than those who choose to observe or participate in it. The point of art is to serve a public in presenting an aesthetic that transforms, coalesces, and embraces its public observers. The more art speaks coherently, the more a mindful audience grows. The objective of such aesthetics is to advance communication, albeit in the abstract.  Ergo, art is an abstract form of language, that people must assimilate. Assimilation requires two circumstances to occur to complete.

1.    First, the society and culture must mature with age and growth, allowing immigrant cultures to assimilate and pollenate the culture with their own.

2.    Second, the governance of that culture must allow rules to be established to: (a)  create space for older more established art forms to continue and (b) open ground for new aesthetic forms to evolve as culture evolves to accommodate it. (Though new genres in the arts have emerged in contemporary society, the advent of media and social media over the last 8 or so decades have caused much of it to, again, fall prey to populist financiers, promoting and profiting these arts as commercial pageantry and hype, eroding its aesthetic purpose.)


Modern society, particularly in the US, has simply not had time to grow and matured into cultural adulthood. Cultures that have established maturity are millennia or more in age. Civilizations that have not had the time to self-integrate, have not finished the process of migration to settle, need time and history to fuse into developmental cohesion, allowing cultural maturation to be fully established. This is particularly true in aesthetic and artistic and semiosis. In our culture, there has been little intent to promote indicative systems to regulate society to allow freedom of cultural expression, as there is freedom, for example, of economic and political expression. Ergo, the US and a few other countries, are juvenile societies are not of an age old enough to recognize the need to nurture it. And this is why pop-culture, (which is the culture of pre-adolescence), has  flourished as mature great art continues quietly in the background.

We cannot force a nation-wide change in cultural maturity or thought.  But we can plant the seed of change by formally establishing what indicates and constitutes mature art forms, regardless of whether they are folk, ethnic, classical, urban, rural, elite, grassroots or even popular.  (If music that has been promoted into populism followed aesthetic ideals outside of marketing, it could unwittingly educate an aesthetically illiterate public while simultaneously raising the level of artistic standards.)The following are standards originally written to identify classical art forms in diverse cultures vs. non-classical genres, and the equality of imperative cultural need.  Here, these standards are slightly altered and expanded to include most other art forms:


11 Aspects of Art & Aesthetics

 that can be codified within any culture, utilizing any form, artistic, functional or practiced, throughout time.

1)    All Art Forms have Specificity of Elements. These elements are specific to create the overall design of the art form. These forms can mutate at the personal tastes of the creator if that form has not established rules (see ‘2” below) to govern it. If so, that mutation can be labeled a new, can be considered an existing genre. If the primary reasoning for this mutation is towards establish a market, it can be dropped as a consideration as legitimate aesthetic. The elements of any art form are designed to create a function, governed by internal rules, that serves all stakeholders and communities whose access to the form is facile. This way the stability of the form over time is maintained over many generations.


2)    It has Rules & Laws. Because most aesthetic genre have structure, it is governed by vague to specific foundational rules, that are required to be in place to maintain that form. Those rules must maintain a central standard otherwise change. If they do change, that may to re-codify as a new separate form, evolved out of the original parent form. 

a) Only the foundational rules of classical art forms are conservatively fixed. This is not true for the majority of other art forms and genre, that have more freedom within their structures to expand, contract or mutate. The form might be fluid in how it may grow, operate and expand, as all of culture expands.

b) Most established genre have spawned sub-genre branches of that form, evolve from it over time.  These forms have fundamental changes to the foundational rules and laws that govern the pre-generative parent form.

c) Consistency and specificity of rules. These rules maintain consistency throughout history.  The may accepts new ideas and rules that can enhances or detract from its form. If it doesn’t work, it may negate the rules and ideas that originally codified it, as society and cultural progress through time and generation. Thus, it allows new ideas and rules to evolve as separate genre and/or subgenre, but only as long as they show signs of developing into more conservative forms themselves.


3)    It has Specificity of Form.

There is history, reason and logic that established its function and aesthetic as it is.


4)    It is Progressive. Each successive generation advances the form as it may evolve and grow through each era, with or without changing its fundamental rules. If maintained properly, history will maintain its original ideas to be pondered in successive generations. Stable art forms outlive the lifetimes of its progenitors. Multigenerational acceptance throughout time is key, as are the lineage of progeny and history of consistency of form, including its progressions and advancements, regardless of popularity or quantitative popular result.


5)    It is Timeless. Each successive generation inherits and wills the form to the next, through advanced education and pedagogy, from journeyman to master level practitioners, who have the skill, experience and knowledge in an unbroken lineage of a growing number of adherents, also without changing it. This lineage is maintained and can be traced. The art form’s use to culture, is to maintain order and cohesion to society, and should not be minimized in importance. 


6)    It is Repeatable. The form can be repeated exactly or within the specificity of rules that form at any time in history, due to the lineage of pedagogues who maintain and transmit it to their successors. But, such exactitude is based upon the rule of the form (see 2 above), and the evolving culture in which it has descended. But, great art needn't be repeated endlessly as it is recalled for the message we are left with.

7)    It Communicates. All art forms and aesthetics evolved from the primitive need to communicate through visual, aural, tactile and sensory processes. They are still a device to help people interact both in and outside the culture within which it is maintained. The arts developed into a semiotic linguistic, that became established as separate genre from verbal and written language to preserve and cultivate aesthetic communication as its primary function.  


8)    It is Functional. Most established aesthetic forms provide invaluable, necessitated, and needed service to community.


9)    It has Its Own Decorum. Most established forms reflect or possibly maintain specific cultural forms, so that adherents preserve acculturations, and a sense of awareness of the place, time and purpose, in which the form is being enacted or presented, whether these be ritual, ceremonial or order based.


10)  It is Imperative. Over time, the form becomes imperative to the cohesiveness and of the society and culture within which it is maintained, even if its value is not recognized by those who understand or know little about it.  Most importantly, art forms that can only evolve into classicism, or maintain as classical forms if they are based upon three principle and practices:

a)    Traditions of practice. How each form is taught and learned, practiced and cultivated, realized and performed, is established as normality of descendance over time. This is dominant over populist appreciation or not. Longevity of form is requisite to maintain stable structure to create longevity. This does not include manipulation of audience through marketing which deconstructs most art forms.

b)    Professionalism based upon Traditions of Practice, is considered the life blood of any genre.  The ability, long-term education in, technique, specificity of aesthetic definition, tradition and excellence, separates the focused student and journeyman over the amateurs who love the form. This requires dedication of appreciation, stakeholder fantasy and marketing skills to maintain. Note: an interest by amateurs is not eschewed if seen as a support as audience for the aesthetic and technical aspects, as continual students of the form. Caveat: amateurs and society should never mistake themselves for professionals.

c)    Cooperation and collaboration of professionals. The community of artists and community supporting them, is the primary factor in what cultivates and expands great art. Marketing, competition and competitive aspirations to raise oneself artificially above others, overriding other legitimate artists, results in mediocre product marketed to the masses should be avoided at all costs. This is an absolute truth of culture and aesthetics.


11)  It opens possibilities for new Ideas to ferment and increase its effecacy both technically and aesthetically.

a)    Differing genre of composers/choreographers/authors collectively know what new ideas to accept and which ideas to reject in order to maintain their genre’s purity.

b)   Some new ideas may evolve into new genre, though many ideas will simply dissolve into history and memory as they are abandoned as they simply do not serve as an aesthetic vehicle to communicate narrative or feeling. This may be because they lack the aesthetic strength, education and codified techniques to support the whole of society. Though, culture stagnates without a diversity of new ideas, many of them will not last. Without a diversity of newer ideas with the support of older established forms, those older forms themselves may decay.

c) Though it allows for limited public promotion, it does not allow for marketing to dominate the purpose of exposing the art form to an audience.

Bibliography and Further Reading

Morley, I. (2018) The Prehistory of Music: Human Evolution, archaeology, and the origins of musicality. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Cloud, D. (2015) The domestication of language: Cultural evolution and the uniqueness of the human animal. New York: Columbia University Press. 

Fink, B. Bläsing, B. Ravignani, A. Shackelford, T. (2021) “Evolution and functions of human dance,” Evolution and Human Behavior, Volume 42, Issue 4 Pages 351-360, ISSN 1090-5138,  

Fink, B. Blassing, B. Ravignani, A. Shackelford, T. (2021)  Evolution and Functions of Human Dance.” Evolution and Human Behavior, 42: pg. 351-360.

Uduak, P. Roseline, A (2020)  An Overview of the Arts As a Language of  Communication, Expression and Experience: A Discourse 10. 28-46.

Stroud, Scott. (2007):  “Dewey on art as evocative communication.” Education and Culture 23: 6-26Kernan, A.(1992) The Death of Literature. Yale University Press; Revised ed. edition (September 10, 1992), 239 pages. ISBN-10: ‎ 0300052383.  ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0300052381

Lee, Jin Woo & Lee, Soo Hee. (2017). “Marketing from the Art World”: A Critical Review of American Research in Arts Marketing. The Journal of Arts Management Law and Society. 47. 17-33. 10.1080/10632921.2016.1274698.

Yeager, H. (2015) “The evolution of human communication.” J. Cell Commun. Signal. 9:289–290 DOI 10.1007/s12079-015-0286-6

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