Aesthetics Introduction

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I am at heart a philosopher rather than an artist or entertainer or even a consumer. I do like immersing myself in the experience of fun, beautiful, or profound things, but I am equally (or more) interested in the ideas they represent and in what makes them fun, beautiful, or profound.

My general aesthetic theory is that people have different emotional or intellectual desires in life, and they use art to help fulfill them. This leads them into different realms of artistic taste. For instance, I like to use music to create an environment for me to live in, so I don’t listen to music that takes a lot of concentration to appreciate. I tend to listen to new age, ambient, or trance, sometimes classical. I like art that I can “get” at a glance but which also has deeper layers of structure and meaning that I can uncover over time. Additionally, my favorite genres of just about everything are science fiction and fantasy. This used to be because I thought the real world was boring, but reality is growing on me, so now I think the reasons are more complex than that.

Before I get started on the subsections, a note on my links: I link to websites I like, but I don’t necessarily approve of everything on those sites. This is true whenever anybody links to anything on the web, but I just want to say to my more conservative readers that while I try to associate myself with wholesome things, sometimes the things I like about a work are accompanied by other things I could do without (usually it’s language and violence). I try to overlook those and just enjoy the parts I do like. I hope my aesthetic and other values will become evident to you as you read through my site.

Music

I’ve been a musician since I was three. I took violin lessons from three till first grade, piano first through twelfth, French horn in band sixth grade through high school, and church choir the whole time. By the end of high school, my musical activities had proliferated so much that I was tired of music altogether. Except for band. Band, I can honestly say, was the best thing I did in school, and I loved it the whole way through. When I went to college, I dropped music entirely for a couple of years, after which I helped out with the music at church until our little church closed. A couple of years ago I joined a worship team on the piano at my current church, and it's been a growing experience, since we normally use lead sheets and spend the whole time improvising. Not what I was used to. I also bought a French horn a few years ago, though so far I've rarely played it.

Performing is fun (when I’m not doing too much of it), but what I really want to do is compose. This is what I unconsciously wished I was doing whenever I’d sit down at the piano to practice. And I did compose some, though it wasn’t much and not that good. But what I really wanted my teachers couldn’t give me, which was formal training in composition. I did take a music theory class in high school, but that was about it. Wheaton offers a major in composition, but I had other priorities. You can’t major in everything. So now I plan to teach myself. I want to start with tonal harmony and counterpoint and then get into digital music.

And of course, I listen to music, too. I don’t connect with most styles of popular music. As I mentioned earlier, mostly I listen to new age, ambient, and other electronic music, some classical, and a few movie and game soundtracks. I used to listen to a lot of Christian music, but these days I don’t connect well with Contemporary Christian Music. I do like hymns. But in general I’m an instrumental person. Vocal music just doesn’t do much for me, with a few exceptions.

This section is called “Music,” but other auditory things will likely appear here as well, like sound effects and instrument samples.

Writing

As usual, I don't know what to call this section. Yes, I read as well as write. But “literature” sounds too highbrow. I occasionally read fine art literature but not that much. I would use “narrative,” but I’m interested in other kinds of writing as well. So I just call the whole thing writing because really, when I’m analyzing other people’s writing, my goal is to know how to write better myself.

I read almost no fiction while I was a teenager, except for the stuff we were forced to read in school. I read a lot of fiction when I was younger, but once I hit my teenage years my analytical mind took over, and I read mainly apologetics. What brought me back was a video game. I rarely played them growing up, but my senior year of college I was introduced to Chrono Trigger, and I was hooked. Chrono Trigger was an RPG for the Super Nintendo that came out in 1995. I played it for hours at a time, and instead of feeling brain-dead like I did after playing other video games, I always came out of it feeling exhilarated. As I looked for other games like it, I realized that what I liked most about it was the plot, and of course, I could get that from literature. So I broke my narrative fast and picked up The Hobbit, a book I had tried to read twice before and had dropped in the middle of Mirkwood each time. This time I finished it and moved on to The Lord of the Rings. And my fiction consumption has just snowballed from there. Usually I read science fiction and fantasy. And I mostly listen to audiobooks because it lets me do other things at the same time.

Despite all this fiction I’m reading, I haven’t been writing any stories like I did when I was little. I have these huge mental blocks that keep me from getting very far with ... well, anything, but especially creative writing. My writing is all of a more expositional nature. This is something I hope to overcome. Narrative really fascinates me, and I have this impulse to create that so rarely gets channeled into anything productive.

Poetry rarely does anything for me, usually because I find it hard to understand, but I strongly prefer metrical, rhyming poetry over freeverse. I especially appreciate meter-and-rhyme when it occurs in music, though I am also impressed when someone can set prose to a melody and not sound like their music is rambling.

Art

I’m including in this category anything visual and static, such as architecture. I know even less about visual art than the other areas of aesthetics, and my tastes here are even more limited. I’m pretty much at the level of pop culture. Art museums bore me about as much as the average person. I don’t typically care about any art produced before the twentieth century, and the avant garde types of modern art are nonsensical to me or at least uninteresting. My favorite kinds of art are nature photography, fantasy art, and surrealism. Then I have other miscellaneous visual interests, mostly having to do with computers and publishing, such as fonts. Sometime I want to explore the ins and outs of computer graphics.

Comics

Comics, along with video games, were one of those things I wished I could get into when I was young but didn’t because they cost too much. I did grow up on comic-related TV shows and movies, however. I watched Superfriends, The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, Batman. Superman and Wonder Woman were at the top of my list of superheros, though they’ve now been supplanted by Spider-Man. There’s something about comics that’s just cool (not a word I use often, but here it fits). To some degree it depends on the comic, but partly it’s the medium itself that intrigues me. The first comic book I actually read was volume one of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. Kind of a dark one to start out on, but that’s what I picked up. Anyway, that launched me into comic books. But one comic medium I had already discovered was webcomics, a great way to pass the time. I also dabble in anime and manga, which I like because they are weird and because they are character-driven. And for the record, Calvin and Hobbes is the best comic strip in the universe.

Games

In a sense, games are the centerpiece of my aesthetic interests, specifically what I call “narrative games.” These are any games that revolve around stories. My primary focus is on computer games, and the narrative games in that category are things like text adventures, computer RPGs, and adventure games. Narrative games bring together two topics that are deeply fascinating to me: narrative and interaction. Why they are so intriguing to me is a mystery I haven’t yet explored. Of course, most people wouldn’t explore it at all. Those people are normal.

As I mentioned in the writing section, the game that got me started was Chrono Trigger, which I played about six years after it came out. For a while it was the model by which I evaluated many of the other games I played, at least the RPGs. For a few years after that I played a fairly steady stream of RPGs and adventure games, both commercial and freeware. Then I took a break from games for a few years, but last year when I got a better computer, I plunged back in and this time began expanding the types of games I played.

One of my goals in life is to make at least one or two games.

Video

I have a love/meh relationship with video entertainment. I also don't have many profound things to say about it at this point. But there are a few TV shows, movies, and online video channels I like, so I might talk about those some. As usual, I'm especially into SFF and comedy. These days I watch a lot of Let's Plays.

Humor

Humor is necessary for my survival. I am addicted to it. And to go along with my philosopher tendencies, I also analyze it. Everything else in this section will be a surprise.