53. Can Art Be Truly Oringinal?

J.R. Pierce gives an argument against originality in music, an argument that can be generalized to the other arts.  He writes:

“If a human being finds monotonous that which is mathematically most various and unpredictable, what does he find fresh and interesting?  To be able to call something new, he must be able to distinguish it from that which is old. To be distinguishable, sounds must be to a degree familiar.”

According to Pierce, something that was truly original would not be distinguishable.  So if art is to be distinguished then the artist cannot avoid using recognizable elements that make his work inevitably derivative to a degree.

See Pierce’s Symbols, Signals, and Noise: The Nature and Process of Communication (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1961), chapter 13, “Information Theory and Art”.

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