Sunday, February 25, 2007


My girlfriend and I went to the symphony last night, and I forgot how much I love it. However, the music performed provoked in me tangibly aural (think about that one for awhile) proof of the inferiority of modern artistic movements compared to their classical predecessors. The first piece was by J.C. Bach (not his more illustrious father), the second by the 20th century "neo-classical" composer Martin and, after the intermission, the third was by Mozart.

The first piece was beautiful, heart-rending and stirred profound emotions within my soul. The second was disjointed, atonal and ultimately provoking nothing and the third was simply Mozart, virtuosic and with beautiful pleasing musical passages that stay within the mind long after the performance is finished. I think what turns me off about so much 20th century art is the abdication of any sort of relationship between the art and the experience of the listener. 20th century art is to be studied, not experienced, thereby rendering it nearly mute. Martin would start to develop a nice melody, but then complete destroy it in pointless dissonance and never even hint at returning to the movement. I know dissonance has its place, but as a tension-building counterpoint that must eventually be answered by the piece. This piece resolved itself into dissonance and so instead of tension, one doesn't understand what the composer was actually trying to say. In the end, the whole piece felt like a series of non-connected musical episodes, so good, some not which ultimately added up to nothing.

Art should touch the soul in order to provoke the mind. Modern music and modern art forgot that. They decided it was enough to simply provide something that resembles art in its loosest form, and explain to the viewer/listener why the mind should be provoked. Often, without anything meaningful to say, modern art simply became about illustrating some facet of art or about the tools at their disposal (is nothing more non-thought provoking than the modern painters who delved into the idea that painting is 2-dimensional? The purpose of painting is to move beyond that limitation, not explore it. It's a rather lame starting point for an artistic movement). It ceased to care if the viewer were provoked into thinking and feeling and experiencing some insight into the human condition. Into this meaningless void stepped those artists whose only attempt at meaning is poorly thought out, puerile 1930's soviet influence agit-prop whose wisdom about mankind is as thin as the canvas they used.

The art world would be better served if the rhetoric (most notably Walter Benjamin, Le Corbusier and Antonio Gramsci) of the 20th century were lost forever to the attic of history and simply some of the art works remain as items of beauty (Rothko and Pollack spring to mind. Their stuff is wondrous to behold, but provoke very little besides an appreciation of aesthetic experience. Theirs is not the foundation of an art which inspires). Much made in the 20th century was beautiful in spite of the rhetoric and Martin should have followed his instincts instead of producing something that followed the proscriptions laid out in that dreadful century. My symphony going experience would have been that much more enjoyable.