Sigur Rós & Transcendentalism

Monday night, we saw the Icelandic group Sigur Rós at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. Shaun scored front row seats in the pre-sale, so needless to say, we were in a prime position to witness the splendor. (Good job, Shaun.)

Within any art discipline (music, visual, theatre) there are tiers of effect & influence. The lower tiers are purely recreational and entertaining and as you climb the steps, the emotional, mental and spiritual investment increases for both the artist and the audience. The art on any tier can be enjoyable and successful, but the lasting and immediate effects will be very different. So, for example, on the lower tiers you might have “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were Rabbit” (which is great, but I prefer “Chicken Run”) or “Sandlot” and towards the upper end you’ve got “Crash” or “The Passion of the Christ”. All are excellent, but they’ve each got very different purposes and impacts.

In Hinduism, this idea is described by the belief in seven chakras (pronounced chuckruhs) aligned vertically from the base of the spine to the top of the head. From the bottom up, each chakra is increasingly more concerned with God and increasingly less concerned with matter. So you go from instinct, to emotion, to freedom to be oneself, to love and compassion, to self-expression, to intuition and finally to connection with the divine.

This is all to say that I can think of a band, painting or movie that connects me to each of these areas and the list associated with the seventh chakra, that highest place, is extremely short. Sigur Rós are on it.

Here are some pictures and video that Russ took at the show.

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7 thoughts on “Sigur Rós & Transcendentalism”

  1. I knew a little about chakras before you posted this, but not as much as what you said. It’s great how different religions can teach us about ourself and further our religious beliefs. So what happens when our chakras are ‘misaligned’? What happens when we put, let say, American Idol ahead of a family reunion, or work ahead of personal well-being? Or even money ahead of common courtesy…? Hmm…really makes you think. Seems to me, that if Governments and people who ruled the world would align their chakras a little better, maybe war would be a thing of the past. Wouldn’t that be great. Good post.

  2. Right on. Those rhetorical questions you ask are good and I think everyone who asks them of themselves knows the answer and has witnessed it in their own life. I know I have.

  3. You know….you two guys lose me so fast. I barely understand anything you “say”. Is it just me?


    Love ya

  4. I’ve never been a big fan of Hinduism. It’s a little too all inclusive for me. Then again, I’m an idealist…you know…there is a singular perfect truth and what we see is only shadows on the wall. I think it’s interesting, though, that the Chakras are very similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Ok…ok…I’ll admit I believe all truth comes from the same source and probably didn’t fall smack in the lap of Western Civilization.
    I love the thought behind your aesthetic reasoning about the influence and effect of art. Where would purely functional art fall in your tiered system…or purely abstract art? Where, if at all, do we take into account the type of effect? If I’m repulsed, but it’s a perfect repulsion, does this still give a work of art value. Where does escapism fall, valuable…invaluable…worthless? What if the effect is to draw our attention to that which is mean or debase instead of divine? If mayonnaise tasted like ketchup, what would taste like mayonnaise. These are questions that I have had to answer many times in my life from different vantage points. I’d be interested to know your answers.

  5. Tim,

    That’s a heck of a thoughtful response. Thanks.

    Yeah, I definitely tend to swim in the pluralist end of the pool. Although, I can see that pluralism and relativism have just as many downfalls as absolutism, albeit entirely different ones. But, what they do have in common is the search for truth. And as you said, that comes from the same source. So, from where I’m at, a helpful truth or practice in Hinduism is just as valuable as a truth or practice in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Bahai…you see where I’m going. They are discoveries of what matters, and while they are fleshed out in ways as different as our geography and language, they are as identical as our irises.

    The question of art is such a great one and I love the way you put it! Entire books are written on this subject. But here is my philosophy: spirituality itself is not relative (we agree there are ultimate truths), but an emotional response to art is. And I can’t impose my response to something as broad as style, genre or medium…it simply depends upon the encounter with the specific piece. So, I can’t say that I put all abstract art at the throat (or expression) and all functional pottery at the root (survival). Some functional art elevates your functional life beyond survival and emotion and forces you to think about the idea of survival itself.

    You ask if we should take into account the type of effect. I think that’s all we can take in to account. Our responses to material things are in large part a result of everything that’s come before it. So, your memories, your childhood, your education, things your children have said or done…I think these things inform your encounter with a song or a painting. Because we have had completely different experiences, what we read from any given piece of art is going to be different…it almost has to be (how’s that for bringing an absolute idea in to a relative theme!).

    What do you say? What would taste like mayonnaise?

  6. So you’re saying that the only absolute is that aesthetic experiences are relative. I would agree with you to a point. Any Classical era musician (1700 – 1800 app., Era of Enlightment) would disagree. They believed that each type of music inspired different “humors” or emotions. As artists, we can predict certain general responses in the viewer/listener based on cultural cues or even common sense. This is how some works are able to transcend societal levels and even cultures. It’s like when the music changes in a scary movie. The music causes tension which intensifies the experience. Again, I say general responses. The nuances of feeling and response are completely personal. You hit the proverbial nail when you write about past experience informing your expereince, though. As artists, we dabble in that border between what we know the viewer/listener will feel or experience and the unknown nuances he brings to the party.
    When Stravinsky wrote the music for the ballet, “The Rite of Spring”, I think he knew people would feel tense, musically lost, maybe even angry. He was going to primal music to depict primal emotions. He could not have predicted the audience would riot.
    Relativism is an aesthetic philosophy that emphasizes the relationship between the artist and audience. I think you, a contextualist, and I, a semi-isolationist, meet in the middle with relativism.
    Sorry to take up so much space. I don’t often get to talk aestetics with anyone. I’m a poor man’s philosopher at best.
    I think it would be Horseradish… but then what would taste like Horseradish?

  7. Tim,

    Take up all the space you like! I’m loving this discussion.

    You’re right about the general responses, and movie scores are a perfect example of this.

    Artists who practice the classical method of drawing and painting would probably disagree with me as well. In fact, I had plenty of conversations with fellow students in college about this. Not to mention with my students these days who want to know why Pollock is so famous, “My baby sister could do that, Mr. Rhea.”

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