The Contents Of An Ostrich’s Or Even A Hen’s Gizzard
A discussion in which Sir Donald takes a long walk into the Land of Tangential Analogies and compares music to amoebic digestion and various poultry gizzards.
Every work of art, from the most absolute of music to the most pantomimic of operas, selects its material in much teh same way as the amoeba selects its food; by simply coming into contact with it and extending itself around it. The amoeba has, I understand, also some capacity, mechanical or chemical (why not say artistic?) for attracting suitable food before committing itself to indiscriminate contacts.
Without going into inelegant detail, let us frankly use the word ‘digestion’ as a technical term for the way in which the work of art treats its material. If the amoeba, or the work of art, has begun to put itself outside an indigestible object, it can, so long as the object does not destroy it first, rearrange its contractions so as p=to put the object outside again. In works of art, this may be done by the listener or spectator, for it always takes at least two people to produce a work of art—the artist and the person who is to enjoy the completed work. We need not discuss the rules of equity between these two.
There is often no harm in absorbing material without altering it by digestions. For some purposes the presence of undigested material, such as the contents of an ostrich’s or even a hen’s gizzard, may be an important aid to digestion. The hen swallows tiny stones which enable its gizzard to grind its food. Some works of art have very powerful gizzards. Do not ask me to locates these organs. But, for example, the Divina Commedia provides, in the 32nd Canto of the Purgatorio, one of the toughest gizzards to be found in any work of art.