The receiving instrument

October 26, 2017 at 11:06 am (Uncategorized)

(Some discoveries are too good just to drop on @#&^$*&!! Facebook where I myself will never see them again. Besides, I want Louise to see this.)

What a lovely term I never heard before — the “beholder’s share,” the unique creative contribution that each viewer/listener/reader brings to perceiving a work of art. It was coined by Alois Riegl of the Vienna school of art history and his disciples Ernst Kris (who became a psychoanalyst) and Ernst Gombrich.

I had come to this concept (without having a word for it) in regard to Jacques, who was an immensely generous and percipient listener to music, especially jazz — its ideal audience perhaps — who was obviously musically gifted, but had never learned, in his rough-and-tumble life, to play an instrument well. (It might have been the bass.) It struck me that “the ear is the fifth instrument in the quartet,” that no piece of music is complete or fulfilled without a listener, a witness, and that listening, like playing, must also be practiced and refined. And the same can be said for every art. Now I have a term for it. The beholder’s share.

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