Thursday, June 18, 2009

Voided Variety 6/18/09

An artist is never ahead of his time but most people are far behind theirs.

Edgar Varese
Here again are you?
"I know everything about art but I don't know what I like" James Thurber has one of his characters say. That, of course, is a reversal of the usual cocktail party remark about art appreciation. One of the greatest disservices a person can do to himself is to stick to only what he knows and not open his mind to something new and different.

I think I've written before about the woman at the NY Philharmonic concert who sat in the back row of the balcony. When the Mozart or Schubert was being played she sat and listened, But when a piece of modern music, Webern or Berio, was played she would go out into the hall and wait for it to be over. She was making a statement. She wasn't going to listen to any of that "modern junk." It was totally silly because she could hear it out in the hall so she would know when it was "safe" to come back and sit down. This lady was purposely depriving herself of some amazing musical experiences. The lady had an "attitude."

There used to be a TV commercial from an outfit that was selling classical music records by subscription, to introduce fine music into the home of people who weren't used to it. One of the remarks the announcer made while pitching those records was "We've taken out all the unfamiliar music." I gasped.

What's modern music? It's all a lot of dissonant noise. You can't hum along or tap your foot. What good is it?

What's modern art? It's a lot of squiggles and blobs. What's it supposed to be of?

What's modern dance? A bunch of people falling down and rolling around. That's not dance.

When I first came into the world of 20th Century music I had been raised on a diet of Baroque to Late Romantic. I purposely bought and listened to the music of modern composers. I had a recording of a piece by an intense and seldom played composer named Karlheinz Stockhausen. I listened to it many times, trying to understand it. One day I had the record with me when I was visiting some dancer friends. They had never heard it, So I played it for them. They had no trouble with it. They immediately got up and started dancing. They caught the spirit and life of the music and taught me what it was about.

It's well and good to have favorites among the arts. Who doesn't? But the art of the 20th and 21st Centuries is the modern mind, with its modern sensitivities, speaking to the modern mind. If we don't pay attention to it we'll be left behind. Yes, it's difficult if you're not familiar with it. That's why it has to be heard and seen over and over again until it becomes familiar, until it becomes a part of our lives and we can know it and love it.

Art, like life, is a process of discovery. So look and listen and don't sit out in the hall.

DB Vagabond
Greet a stranger today. Why not?



What do you think was the most important event of 2008? and

What was the most significant event in your life last year?

You have 3 days left to answer if you wish.

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Leave answers on my email or on my journal Thank you. DB


Rose~* said...

I love discovering new art forms, however I still have some trouble understanding some of the words to those "rap" songs that the kids like to listen to, nowadays. :::SIGH::: (I have caught myself dancing to them, though)

Rose said...

I'm not into "rap" songs at all.

I like to understand the words to the songs to appreciate it and enjoy it.


Cathy said...

Rose makes a point - we all have tastes and preferences, and should be free to express our dislikes as well as like. But DB I have to agree, I know how narrow my life would be w/o certain forms of art and music I would not feel pulled to immediately in a museum. When I first heard Aaron Copeland I thought, gimme my LvB damn it. Same with post-modernists. But you're right, why should we restrict ourselves to only things we can "stand"? That woman did herself a great disservice. This reminds me of the current e-generation who can wrap themselves in an isolated world of iPods, etc., only listen to what they want, never open to what's going on out here in the rest of the universe. It might be "ok" to have these freedoms of choice but look how limiting they are! Great post

Gerry said...

This entry about art, old and modern, rang a bell. I have had a Mozart CD given me by Raymond for Xmas one year, but I could not listen to it by myself. So I took it down to Doc's. I mentioned it yesterday so he promptly got up and put it on. There is nothing like listening to Mozart with a guy of german descent who spends hours of his life listening to not only classical music but jazz. His listening development carried me into the music as never before. I was not raised listening to classical music, so it is a discipline for me. A guy like him introduced me to the symphony years ago in college. Doc's musical presence has meant a lot to me, because I am lacking there. So sometimes we need help to appreciate a certain kind of art. We need people more educated and appreciative to be our companions in exploring a world that is not familiar to us. I have sought out so many musical 'guides' for this very purpose. No matter what kind of music they love they can teach you something if they are devoted enough. Gerry