Friday, July 2, 2010

Brighton Rock

Perhaps, Richard...

But vitriol was the order of the day. In hindsight that last post could be seen as a meta-example of the very argument itself: transcendent writing must bring an understanding of humanity to the table. A sudden rush of emotion filterted through a creative outlet. I'm not saying it WAS transcendent Pulitzer material, but it's far more interesting to my sensibility as a READER than a rational recounting of emotional reactions days after the fact. Isn't it that same drive that inspires a poem to be authored, or a song to be written? That mad rush to grab an instrument of any kind and trap the animal, to contain it so that it can be shared with others, and exorcised from your mind? After all, what is art if not life simply filtered through the artist's perception? It's a shame that all that was taken from it seems to be the desire to write about "sore ankles" and "smelly markets", because to a certain sensibility, it's the aggregation of that type of detail that make up the human condition, and makes whatever flights of fantasy an author creates ring true.

Few people care about the nuts and bolts of a disagreement if they don't understand the context and weight that each side brings to the table. Perhaps that's an oversimplification, but it's not inaccurate. Many (but I'll concede that certainly not all) audiences prefer to ask why the clock has a bird in it, and what that means, rather than request a schematic for the mechanism. I respect that, but personally find schematics crushingly boring. I'd rather be reading Hemingway. And I hate Hemingway. I'm almost done with his works, but can't find the time these days.

Shoehorning one type of creativity into another shape simply because that's what the audience says they want does everyone a disservice... it gives the audience a weak approximation of the original spark, and usually only presents them with something they already know and like. That's fine and dandy to *ahem* "give the people what they want", but that impulse to be populist often stifles what might have been a truly inspired creative moment otherwise. That's the impulse that creates "cover bands" in local bars... picking up a guitar and playing someone else's songs over and over. Sure it's fun, and there's a place for interpretation, but there's no soul to grinding out recreations of someone else's actual creativity. It's an artistic dead end. Write your own! Even if it's malformed or ham-fisted, it's undeniably authentically artistic, and represents some aspect of the creator at that moment. Not all interpretations are bad, but interpreters, no matter their technical gifts, are rarely artists in their own right. There is a place for "confined" creativity (in this case, writing), but rarely does that transcend the forced template of its medium into a place that makes it truly artistic. In case our antagonist has ever been to Goodwill or, perhaps, St. Vincent de Paul, he might've seen thousands of books that meet any given set of criteria, but are lost to (or under) the dust of time because they had no soul, all they were was a set of writing rules that could have been passed out by any college writing instructor.

While this antagonist, who we can call "Duke", made a very valid point for the practical benefits of understading the technical qualities of the medium (i.e. brevity and a less self-aware persepctive), and is certainly well-informed and well-read enough that his opinion shouldn't be considered wrong, his taste is limited by the value system that he has defined over the years, learing what he likes and dislikes. He's entitled to filter out things that don't interest him, after all, why waste time when you know what you like? If what an audience likes is pre-determined, and an artist doesn't fit that finite scope, why should that artist try to "move the mountain". It's easier at that point in life to not waste time with that which doesn't interest them.

Which is a perfectly reasonable course of action. But one that precludes a truly objective sense of critical analysis.

But this is a music blog. While many find Ornette Coleman's untethered sonic experimentalism inspiring, others find it too "free" (in the jazz sense). I'm a fan of Coleman's work but know that "Duke" doesn't like jazz. Why attempt to play him Rashaan Roland Kirk or Miles Davis' On The Corner? To break it down to the rock metaphor that my readers tend to think in (and expect, becuase there's nothing here but consistiency): some people find Dylan's "With God On Our Side" inspiring. I find it didactic and tedious, no matter how it succinctly sums up the racial and political discord that was happening at that moment. I want more than reporting on the facts. Plenty of people turned their noses up at "Maggie's Farm" and "Phantom Engineer" at the Newport Folk Festival in '65. Pete Seeger was on the other side, looking at something that wasn't his, and since it wasn't something that was a part of him (an important contrast to "him being a part of IT"), he may have understood it, but it wasn't something that he could viscerally, emotionally connect to in any positive way. So he chose to wave around an axe and look for the power lines. It would be churlish to compare "Duke" to Seeger, because to do so would unfairly imply ignorance that isn't there.

I'd rather be a Bob Dylan than a Pete Seeger any day.

Have fun on the "Ariadne". Hopefully your German comes in handy. Of course, if "Duke" was right... I shouldn't even know what any of that means. The irony, of course, is that he made the mistake of giving me that in the first place. Hope this one wasn't too long like the last one...


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