What if Dewey met the Pink Floyd?

As Dewey states in his discussion of Art as Experience, “When an art product once attains classic status, it somehow becomes isolated from the human conditions under which it was brought into being and from the human consequences it engenders in actual life-experience.”

It seems that Dewey’s reflection would consider the “erosion” of time in regards to any art product as an agent that corrodes the subject, taking away any emotions, even the memory of it. If this is the case, I would argue that these conditions do not apply, when taking, for instance, about music. During my childhood, I was unable to speak English, although I nurtured a strong passion for the British band Pink Floyd. I spent hours listening to their songs, pervaded by the emotions triggered off by the sounds. Later on, in my twenties, I learnt the English language and by doing that I also gained the chance to understand the Pink Floyd’s lyrics. Funnily enough, I soon discovered how the words were needless somehow, as the music succeeded in sharing their meanings, to the point in which they became a sort of confirmation of the emotions I felt back then.

Dewey’s pointed out that the the aesthetic experience is the interaction of the human being with the environment, a relationship between participants. I would therefore consider the act of listening to the Pink Floyd’s music as a perfect example of aesthetic experience in which more than one person interacts, creating a unity that is essential for the consumption of intellectual, emotional, and somehow “physical” event.

 Nowadays those songs are considered “classics” of the ‘70s, but no one would ever imagine describing them as “isolated from the human conditions under which – they – were brought into being”. On the contrary, the very human experience that suggested their composition has achieved a form of “universal status”, as many people can emotionally rely to their contents and feelings. Therefore, I would conclude that perhaps an art form becoming a classic, might look like a mosquito trapped in amber, in terms that it is indeed isolated from the creator’s feelings, but that is only a consequence of a “magnifying lens” that brings those emotions into a higher status of aesthetic and “universal life-experience”.

Elena Arzani