With the advent of the computer age, advanced science and technology have overwhelmed many aspects of our lives, and even our possibilities of survival are affected. The humanities can provide enjoyment and stimulation, especially when we try to understand what it covers.
The Meaning, Importance, and Scope of humanities
The word humanities come from the Latin humanus, which means human, cultured, and refined. To be human is to have or show qualities like rationality, kindness, and tenderness. Humanities refers to the arts – the visual arts such as architecture; painting and sculpture; music; dance; the theater or drama; and literature. They are branches of learning concerned with human thought, feelings, and relations. The importance of the human being and his/her feelings and how these are expressed have always been the concern of the humanities.
Art is very important in our lives. It constitutes one of the oldest and most important means of expression developed by man. Wherever people have lived together, art has sprung up among them as a language charge with feeling and significance. The desire to create this language appears to be universal. As a cultural force, it is pervasive and potent.
Art, like love it is not easy to define. It concerns itself with the communication of certain ideas and feelings by means of sensuous medium – color, sound, bronze, marble, words, and film. This medium is fashioned into a symbolic language marked by beauty of design and coherence of form. It appeals to our mind, arouses our emotions, kindles our imagination, and enchants our senses. (Machils, 1963).
In every age or country, there is always art. Wherever we go, wherever it is a city or a province, here or abroad, we surely have to pass buildings of various sorts – houses, schools, churches, stores, etc.
The art that we perceive through our eyes is called the visual art and architecture is one part of it. A visual art involve not only painting and sculpture but includes such things as clothes, household appliances, and the furnishings of our homes, schools, churches, and other buildings. Through the ideas selected by painters and sculptors and the forms they create, they express the ideals, the hopes, and the fears of the times in which they live.
The aesthetic aspects of any work – a painting, song, story, dance, or play – are what make it art. Aesthetic refers to the forms and psychological effects of arts.
Another form of the more important arts is music. This is the art of combining and regulating sounds of varying pitch to produce compositions, expressing various ideas and emotions. Its primary function is to entertain. Music is one of the great arts of our civilization, along with literature, painting sculpture, architecture, and dance.
Like the other arts, music deals with emotions. It’s being a “pure art” enables it to convey emotions with great intensity and can affect people directly. Great music specially radiates infectious joy. Many who are receptive to great music find it exhilarating.
If we tune into a musical program on the radio, or sing a song with others, we are having contact with music. The song we sing may be a tune which is popular now but may possibly be forgotten later. It may be a selection which has been sung or played for several decades.
Dance is another form of art that is common to many even during the earliest time. It is the most direct of the arts for it makes use of the human body as its medium. It springs from our love for expressive gestures, release of tension through rhythmic movement. Dance heightens the pleasure of being, and at the same time mirrors the life of society.
The dance of the older times is different from that of the present time; the dance of the barrio folks is different from the dances in the city. Primitives and non-primitives dance. The Ifugaos dance to celebrate the victory of the warriors after fight with their enemies. Likewise, the Bagobos dance to show gratitude to the spirits “for success in war or domestic affair.” The Indians dance to give thanks for a harvest; the Mexicans dance to celebrate a religious festival; teenagers dance at parties; both young and old go to disco bars and children everywhere dance because it is pleasure to express happiness to bodily movements. In its expressive aspects, dance is uniquely able to intensify moods and emotions and to deepen and dignify the feelings of us all (Compton’s Encyclopedia, 1974).
The area of the theater of drama is another important art. Dramatic activities are usually part of every school and community program. Classes dramatize the events they are studying; clubs or organizations and institutions stage plays. The play may be a comedy, tragedy, mystery, musical or melodrama.
Essentially, the stage is a place for re-enacting the joys and problems of life, a place where the playwright strips life of nonessentials and deals with basic and important issues. The spectators get involved in these situations and thus gain greater insight into human motives and passions.
The motion picture is a popular addition to the various forms of the theater. Through it, a great number of people are able to see dramatic performances every day. The radio makes available drama for the auditory sense of imagination. The television, too, brings the art of drama to many people. Theatrical productions, including motion pictures, and television, combine art forms.
The play itself is a form of literature. Scenery and costumes provide the visual arts, and music may serve as a background to set the mood or to serve as part of the plot. The opera is a drama set to music. Thus, it is a form of the theater. In many musical shows, dancers are also important performers. The theater therefore, combines several of the arts.
It is also necessary that we distinguish between art and nature for they are fundamentally different. We may be impressed by the majestic of the perfect cone of Mayon Volcano, the awesome beauty of Pagsanjan Falls or the sunset at Manila Bay and thus, react to the wonders of nature. No matter how close art is to nature, however, art always shows that it is man-made. It is an interpretation of the nature and of life.
What the Arts have in common
We have identified five areas of art: the visual arts, music, dance, literature and drama. But there is one thing that is common to them all. What relates a painting to a song, a play to a dance?
The most basic relationship is that the arts are concerned with emotions, with our feelings about things. When a person sees a picture he thinks it is beautiful, or when she watches a play or dance performance, she thinks it is exciting, she feels that it is lovely or stirring. Her reaction is primarily emotional. People experience excitement, pleasure, anger, and all the other emotional states in a way which is very different from their intellectual responses. Emotions are part of our basic nature.
An artist is a person who exhibits exceptional skills in design, drawing, painting, etc. or one who works in one of the performing arts, like an actor or a musician. Unlike other people, an artist is more sensitive and more creative. He possesses to an unusual degree the knack for stone, notes, or any of the other materials used by artists. He, thus, learns to project his creative impulse through the symbols of his art – a picture, a poem, or a piece of music according to his present inspiration and his training. His process of creation, however, differs from that of an amateur or beginner only in degree.
There are two kinds of artists – creators and performers. A composer writes a song to be sung by talented singers. A dramatist or playwright writes a play to be staged by a company actor. A choreographer composes a ballet or dance sequence which will be performed by a troupe of dancers. Music, theater, and dance are performing arts. Besides the creator, they require other artist who recreates what has been composed. Thus, performers are important.
Two great actors may play the same role in Florante at Laura yet give it vastly different interpretations; two dancers may dance the same ballet but render it quite differently. Thus, in performing arts, the ideas and the interpretations of the performer are added to the original ideas of the creator. This dual contribution gives added richness and meaning to these fields of the arts. It makes them different from painting, for example, in the way by which the creative artists communicate directly with the observer.
The work of the creative artist
Creativity is an artist’s trait developed in the course of her life to solve problems or express her feelings. Her continuing reaction to emerging conditions of nature and social life gives birth to new ideas and new methods. These in turn, she uses to overcome difficulties which in the process of confrontation with reality give the solution to a vision, create art, or activate social transformation.
The process of creation. Experts on the subject are one in their view that there are three major phases in the process of creation. First, the artist must have an idea; second, he must have a material to work on; and third, he must give form to his idea.
The idea. Artist is highly sensitive persons especially aware of the things that surround them. They notice the sounds, colors, and movements of people and things. Art expression is based on the so-called higher senses of sight and sound, with the other senses playing more or less indirect roles. A particular experience may impress an artist so much that he decides to use it as the basis for a picture, a poem, a play or a dance. Depending on his cultural background, a painter may be attracted by anything. He paints a picture from a scene where most people do not think beauty existed.
A novelist may write about the life and misfortunes of a woman whose husband, after failing to find a job, decides to go abroad and becomes unfaithful after a few years. The novelist would show us that the great social and economic problems of our times are essentially human problems and he would make us aware of the effects of advances in science and technology on human beings.
A composer may write a musical fantasy in which the world of mystery and imagination explored. A dancer may do a dance on the pleasures and discomforts of growing up. As a basis for his dance movements, he might use the idealism of adolescence, the developing charm of boys and girls, their sensitivity, their awkwardness, and occasional loneliness.
A study of arts is the study of humankind, for through the arts we can discover our major interests, feelings, and problems through the ages.
Playwrights and novelists have always been concerned with the frailties of human being, with his hopes and fears, his courage and cowardice, his charity, and greed. Poets, with their artistry of statement, have given nobility and intensity to our human experiences. Through dance, the events of life are given symbolic and ceremonial form.
The material and Process. The second phase of creation in art concerns the material which the artist uses to give form to his idea. A painter uses pigments; a sculptor uses stone, metal or wood; an architect, various building materials. An author uses words; a composer, musical sounds which are set down as notes. A choreographer uses people and their movements as the materials for his creations.
The sculpture is something we can see or take in at a glance in it’s entirely, and so sculpture is an art of space. The hymn we hear takes a number of minutes to be sung or the entire composition to be played and so music is an art of time.
Organization and Form. The third phase in creating is organizing the idea and giving it form in the selected materials. Popular song writers use the conventional 32-measure length. Poetry has a number of well-defined forms which are often used: the sonnet, the quatrain, the Spenserian stanza. Operas and plays are always divided into a number of acts.
In several of the time arts, the works generally have a three-part structure: an introductory section which “sets the stage” for what follows; a middle section which develops the plot, the melody or the story; and a concluding section which is the final working out of the forces and ideas which the artist has set in motion.
Style is a term which refers to the development of forms in art that are related to particular historical periods. Forms in the space arts are often symmetrically balanced in their design; that is, the two sides of the object are identical.
Time has shown since that the severe criticisms were unjustified; and we often wonder how people of the past could have disliked some of the works of art we now admire. It is the responsibility of each one of us to be open-minded. The understanding of the great art of all periods is a key to the understanding of the human being. There is a need to associate with great people or artists through their work in order to enrich and ennoble our own lives.
Courtney from Study Moose
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