by Esther Emery
Here are a few lines out of Howard Barker‘s poem Don’t Exaggerate, selected in honor of Sight Unseen:
The final solution to the problem of art
Art is a problem, after all
Is to call it incomprehensible
To burn it only lends it grace
I moved this here from a fascinating discussion of contemporary music and the nature of art over at Superfluities Redux. It comes as a bit of a surprise that I’m linking George Hunka, whose intellect as a blogger often floats several layers of abstraction above my earthbound head. But I was thinking about Sight Unseen, in which an artist is created a charlatan and his muse is created a ruiner of men. (Wow, that’s a criminal oversimplification, but an interesting one. Discuss.) I was particularly thinking about the music for Sight Unseen, and just how far Paul and I should go with modernity in the music. How much do we subvert traditional melody with harsh, strange sounds that parallel the character’s harsh, strange paintings? As I was thinking about this and scanning my blog reader, this paragraph caught my eye, quoted by Hunka from David Byrne:
There are lots of books exploring what the fuck happened with 20th century classical music, when many composers willfully sought to alienate the general public and create purposefully difficult, inaccessible music. Why would they do anything that perverse? Why would they not only make music that was hard to listen to, but also demand, as in the case of Zimmerman, that the piece be performed on twelve separate stages simultaneously, with the addition of giant projection screens and other multimedia aspects? Were these composers competing to see whose works could be heard and performed the least? Why would anyone do that?
Here is Howard Barker again, this time on pain.
It is impossible – now, at this point in the long journey of human culture – to avoid the sense that pain is necessity; that it is neither accident, nor malformation, nor malice, nor misunderstanding, that it is integral to the human character both in its inflicting and in its suffering, this terrible sense Tragedy alone has articulated, and will continue to articulate, and in so doing, make beautiful…