IB TOK ESSAY
In areas of knowledge such as the arts and the sciences, do we learn more from work that follows or that breaks with accepted conventions?
Question 6: In areas of knowledge such as the arts and the sciences, do we learn more from work that follows or that breaks with accepted conventions?
Is it possible that we learn equally from seemingly contradictory situations of work that follows and work that breaks with accepted conventions? Stereotypically the sciences and mathematics are all about fundamental laws, which are further developed and build up. Hence, scientists and mathematicians are assumed to most likely learn more from work that follow. However in the arts, people tend to assume that artists value and learn from new ideas and continuous breakthrough of works. Therefore artists learn more from works that breaks with accepted conventions. However, these various processes of learning in all of the different areas of knowledge are actually interlinked to one another and create a never-ending cycle of learning. Subsequently, through this cycle, we can conclude that we are able to learn equally from both works that follows and that breaks with accepted conventions.
Fig. 1 Diagram Showing Breakthroughs in the Arts through Breaking Conventions
Art is originality: being creative and introducing new ideas and breakthroughs. These breakthroughs are totally original and unique that they are not connected to another. They expand the knowledge of arts and have resulted in the broader and limitless room for innovation of knowledge. As a result, people will learn new things in the arts and further widen their knowledge. For example, an artist like Picasso rejected the art movement of the time, which tried ‘to reach an ideal clarity, formality and precision[i], then came up with the revolutionary movement of cubism. Another famous expressionist at that time, Kandinsky, believed that art should not necessarily be representational in order to express the colours and forms. He discovered that ‘a round spot in painting can be more significant than a human figure’; that ‘the impact of the acute angle of a triangle on a circle produces an effect no less powerful than the finger of God touching the finger of Adam in Michelangelo.’[ii] Consequently, these experiments have constituted a broader and greater learning of knowledge in the art of expressionism and cubism.
Yet, a great art work is supposed to be based on observations of other artists’ works, which is then further studied, adapted and correlated with one’s original ideas. By studying the artworks through replicating the techniques and styles, one can obtain greater knowledge and experience in order to produce another artwork. This can be applied to all aspects of the arts such as music. The modern movement of music perhaps had begun when a new conception of rhythm and/or composition of music without theme or tonality were established by Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Debussy and Bartók just after the First World War. And it is said that ‘these revolutions had emerged from the basis of tradition, as extrapolations of tendencies already present in western music’[iii]. These musicians had unmistakably been influenced by the previous masterpieces of earlier musicians to produce their own melodies. Subsequently these new melodies, which were created from the explorations and progressions of the following masterpieces, have deepened the knowledge of the musicians on this particular type of modern music.
But through a similar process of exploration and observation in modern music, a totally new age of music had surfaced and this had accordingly triggered the beginning of the artistic movement of Futurism – another breakthrough. For example, ‘Varèse, a pioneer of electro music, had explored the electronics world from the typical instrumental works and experimented with the effect of his orchestral Intégrales...
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