Saturday, November 25, 2006

Art Imitates Life?

Tell me whether or not you agree with the following statement:
"If we only observed art from the truly happy, it would be a bland collection of casseroles and toaster cozies."
Now for the background: That statement was made by commenter Joe Baby in this post over at Althouse (which actually started out as advice for Jerry Seinfeld on dealing with the fallout from Michael Richards' racist rant last week, but, like many Althousian posts, went off on some interesting tangents). The main gist of the tangent here was, is it possible to separate the art from the artist (i.e. does Richards' rant take away from your enjoyment of the Kramer character)?

My contribution to that discussion was that it was certainly true in the case of jazz musicians:
Read the bios of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane and listen to their music, and compare it to any one of those smooth "jazz" saxophonists out there, and it's pretty easy to see who had the happier life.
(And did you notice how I had the restraint to not cite the G-weasel by name here?)

Another commenter pointed out a notable exception to Joe Baby's theory in the person of J.S. Bach, who by all accounts had a very happy life and wrote very happy music. I also chimed in on this idea:
As I was writing my previous comment, the idea of Bach as a major exception to that rule did cross my mind. But I bet that exception makes more sense when you contrast the times in which he lived vs. now:

1) Bach was employed by either the (ducal or royal) court or the church for most of his life, and most musicians made their liviing this way. Since a lot of his music was sacred in nature, it makes sense that a lot of joy would be reflected in what he wrote. Plus, as [the other commenter] noted, Bach did seem to have a pretty happy life, once you get past the whole thing of being orphaned at age 10 and all.

2) Compare that situation to today. Sure, we still have church musicians, but not all of those are full-time gigs; for the most part, who makes the most money in music is dictated by the whim of the masses. Parker and Coltrane, whom I referenced earlier, made (IMHO) some of the most creative and complex music of the twentieth century, but it was largely ignored by the masses because a) it demands more of the listener than most listeners are willing to give, and b) you can't dance to it.

It does make me wonder how different things might have been if those situations were reversed (i.e. if Bach had to pander to the masses to make a living and if Bird and Trane had, say, corporate sponsorship).
I'm certainly not saying that this happens all the time, even in jazz, but it's far from a coincidence that many of the greats had some pretty substantial pain in their lives. Of course, you may feel free to chime in with your own thoughts in the comments below.

Away in a manger, no brains in their heads: A church in Anchorage, Alaska received a scathing email from PETA for having a "live nativity scene" in front of the building. The only problem was, they weren't even using live animals for their display.

This car comes "loaded" with options: A New Mexico car-buyer was surprised to find out that his car contained a little extra "bonus"--22 pounds of marijuana hidden under the back seat.

Fake but cool: This may only be a computer-generated thing, but links to a really cool video of music that was made, according to legend, by hitting metal balls against specially-tuned rods made from farm equipment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised if this was your first exposure to "Animusic" since you seem to be so well versed in many subjects and appear to visit many sites. I hope you visited their site so that you could view all of their videos. I'm sure you found (will find) them interesting.