What is beauty?

Beauty in your world

Notions of beauty are so clearly personal and impossible to challenge. What one person finds beautiful to another is something altogether ugly to another. A simple dictionary definition is “a combination of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.” But what about the ears? Music offers such meaning to our lives, something almost impossible to express otherwise. It captures and enraptures us. Some find beauty in noise, whilst others in the plaintive lines of folk song. My record collection offers up a wildly eclectic idea of what my ears have have found beautiful since I was a teenager.

I studied English literature and history reveals poets and writers revelling in considerations of beauty. I was always transfixed bt the utterly graceful way in which American poet Robert Lowell was able to articulate such feelings.

“The painter’s vision is not a lens,
it trembles to caress the light.”
Epilogue (1975)

B.E.A.U.T.Y.

Now I was recently invited to feature on a radio show with American musician Derek Piotr, who invited me to compile a short idea of what I might consider ‘beautiful’ music. You can listen back to the interview, where it sounds like I live inside a tin can, and enjoy my choices of music, featuring the music of Robert Ashley, John Cage, Brian Eno, Stephen Vitiello & Taylor Deupree, The Unthanks, and Earth, Wind & Fire. In fact the first record I ever bought (well, my mum probably paid for it actually), was Earth, Wind and Fire’s Fantasy, still today an extraordinarily beautiful piece of music, especially the vocal harmonies, which to me always make me think of church music. To hear this record today is to hear it with forty years of history buried inside it. Stories untold. Memories unfolded.

So enjoy my idea of beauty for this moment. It might well change tomorrow. In fact, I know it will.

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