Motion Ensemble rehearsing John Cage Variations III on May 9 2007.John Milton Cage Jr. (September 5, 1912 – August 12, 1992) Piece from 1963
The Beatles This Boy first released 1963 B side of I want to hold your hand.
This evening I want to provoke those lovers of modern "classical" (?) music. I am not comfortable with calling music which I think is a rebellion against classical music ,classical music ,but I am reluctant to call it orchestral music, this piece anyway. Cage did write for a classical orchestra and I believe he is usually referred to as a classical composer. Roll over Beethoven!
I am an aficionado of Rock and Roll, most of you who follow this blog know that. I have nothing against classical music, its just not what I listen to. I make no claims to being an erudite scholar of music. When I do listen to "classical" music I like the late 19th century guys like Chopin, Ravel , and Debussy, I also like the piece Iberia by Albinez. All of that is actually romantic music I guess.......
I happen to dislike the Cage piece, I also dislike Webern and Schoenberg but that's not the point. I also dislike tofu, okra, and sports. That doesn't make em bad, I just don't like em. You might. Its a matter of opinion. I won't eat tofu because its good for me, nor will I listen to music because its good for me. I go to music for enjoyment. If I was a scholar of music, or a musician, I might need to study John Cage and Schoenberg, but I only listen for pleasure I have no interest in that which I find displeasing.
I want to point out what I think is the similarity of traditional painting to rock and roll and that in my opinion contemporary ("modern art") painting is more like modern music. John Cage is a good example for a couple of reasons here. He hung out with "modern" painters and I think his music drew upon the dada sensibility that drives most of modern art. Here, laid out as bullet points are my arguments for these comparisons.
- Rock and Roll is (was?) a widely popular art form, easily understood and enjoyed by a great number of people, very few people listen to or enjoy modern classical music outside of rarefied academic or professional classical musicians circles.
- Traditional painting is easily understood and is the "peoples" art of our world, the greatest number of people are attracted to traditional painting and very few outside of the art schools or academicia follow modern painting.The big money is there, for sure, but it is a small group of people mostly in the urban high rises of several large American cities who are actively collecting and following modern painting. It is not a "peoples" art.
- It is relatively easy for millions of people to tell whether a rock band is "good" or not. Now the lines here are fuzzy you may like this band, and I another, but in general we judge rock bands on the strength of their instrumental abilities, showmanship, song writing etc. There are some rough standards the the average citizen can understand and debate. While I might disagree with your assessment of a band, I would have no trouble understanding the terms you were using or how you were arriving at your opinion.
- A critic arguing for both this John Cage piece and a "modern" painting is usually speaking a language that the citizens can't understand. Open a copy of Art News and try to read the dense prose that describes the Art. I like to think of my self as bright enough and I know something about art, but I'll be damned if I can follow what the hell they are talking about most of the time. I think its mostly a stream of pretentious nonsense designed to snow me. Compare that with the prose in Rolling Stone which actually makes sense.
- There is an amateur non urban movement in traditional painting today, there are fine painters coming out of the West and from all across the country,besides in New York and LA. That's like Rock and Roll too. Modern classical music is generally coming from academia and the cores of a few large cities, like modern painting.
- Traditional painting has subject matter, so does Rock and Roll, whether it is about, your girl, your car or your pants it has subject. Most modern painting sees subject matter as sentimental and tends to be opaque and deliberately hard to understand. Often titles are cryptic and what the piece is about is only to be discovered by reading the little tag beside it.
- The role of the critic is enormous in modern painting and music. Critic's proclamations define which artists are "good" and which are not. The critics largely ignore traditional painting and we are left with having to decide for ourselves what we value and don't.We are getting by without em. The listeners of Rock and Roll paid little attention to music critics either, they liked Led Zeppelin, they don't care that Rolling Stone dismissed them during their hey day.
- Modern painting is nihilist and elitest. Rock and roll, and traditional painting are romantic and sentimental.
- Rock and Roll has stood the test of time in the popular culture. How many people can identify a modern painting from 1960 compared to those who can recognize an Elvis Presley tune? Did you ever pass someone on the street who was whistling a Schoenberg tune? Christiana's world is instantly recognizable, can you hum me a few bars of the John Cage tune you just heard. I didn't think so.