This post is a student contribution from Claudia Moser’s class ARCH 1764: 25 Things! 250 Years of Brown’s Material Past

On Friday, March 7th, I attended the 250th Anniversary Wind Symphony Concert in Salomon Hall. George Masso, a Rhode Island composer and jazz trombone player, composed two of the pieces played during the performance and was in the audience during the event. His presence made me ponder about how he viewed the performance of his song and if, like Walter Benjamin probably would have thought, the reproduction of his art had lost its “aura” or “authenticity.” Although Benjamin’s main focus in his article, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, is on art as objects, he does touch upon art as music by quoting Leonardo da Vinci who compares painting and music: “Painting is superior to music because, unlike unfortunate music, it does not have to die as soon as it is born…Music which is consumed in the very act of its birth is inferior to painting which the use of varnish has rendered eternal” (Benjamin 250). By quoting da Vinci, I presume that Benjamin has similar beliefs, but I doubt George Masso would have and I do not either. Although music isn’t a physical being like objects are, this does not mean it “dies as soon as it is born.” In fact, I believe it is just the opposite: music can be born at any time through singing or musical devices, but objects can be destroyed through force. Moreover, I believe music has more of an “eternal” intention than most art objects because part of the actual intent of music is for it to be replayed: whether by the actual composer at concerts, by other musicians, or even (in today’s day) remixed by DJ’s. Benjamin argues that “even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be” (Benjamin 220). However, music is the one art form that defies this notion because the element of time and space exists when a song is being played, regardless of whether it is played by the creator or not. I would have loved to talk to Mr. Masso himself about his reaction to the performance as well as his opinion on music reproduction, but I just had to scurry out of Salomon at the end to grab a last slice of cake!