When I was at University (studying Contemporary Musics (sic)), I was introduced to the concept of avante garde music, including what seemed like really weird things at the time, like sitting on a tall stool throwing ping-pong balls into an open harpsichord. I wasn't sure what to make of it. The more I was exposed to this style of performance, the more I accepted it. I starting writing pieces in this genre myself (one day I may tell the whole story of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to Beethoven's 3rd Symphony", or "Pandora's Box"). They were insane. They were not pleasant to listen to. They were not clever. They did not demonstrate my understanding of a new medium. They had very little value of any sort, except possibly as bad jokes. They consistently got very high marks from my tutors.

I started pushing the envelope, getting weirder and weirder. Less and less thought went into the sound or construction of the music - my only aim was to be as outlandish as possible. My marks continued to be consistently high.

I realised that I was not learning anything remotely valuable. I began to take the piss, writing and performing pieces consisting entirely of nursery rhymes, or playing instruments in ways they were not designed to be played, or recording myself singing a single note for as long as I could and then multi-tracking it as many times as I could. Together with three friends, I formed a string quartet where every member did not know how to play the instrument they were playing. This culminated with a composition assignment we were given, where the only criteria was that it should be 15 minutes long. I wrote "Five Three-Minute Pop Songs" - a sequence of five pieces, each exactly three minutes long, consisting of a four-chord sequence being played at exactly 60 bpm, over and over again for the duration. The audience at the performance hated it. I received a very high mark.

Not everything can be art. Merely calling something art does not make it so. Thought, care and effort must be expended. This does not detract from the natural beauty of a chance occurance, a breathtaking landscape, the pattern of rain falling on a lake. These are aesthetically pleasing things. They are not necessarily art. An upside-down urinal may have taken effort to create, but the care and attention involved will have been focussed on the physical act of creation, not the ephemeral act of impacting another person. Art does not have to be beautiful - but it should elicit a reaction in and of itself, independent of its environment. A urinal does not elicit an emotional response when in a public convenience - and hey, if you actually look at the thing and study the curves, the line, the sleek surface, it could be considered beautiful.