Monday, June 6, 2011

30 DoB 15: Reconciling "High" and "Pop" Art?

I did so. much. reading. today. I don't think I bit off more than I can chew in reading The Fountainhead but man, that book is long. I read about 150 pages today and should probably read about 50 more before going to bed... and then maybe I'll have made a dent in the book.

I'm definitely enjoying it, though! It presents some really interesting ideas using the contrasting practices of two architects - one who kind of manipulates his way through life and gives exactly what people want, the other who has almost no emotion at all, but builds perfect buildings, but no one likes them. And when the latter corrects the work of the former, everyone calls it a masterpiece. Of course, that's only Part I of I think five parts? Not sure. I've got some way to go.

But it does present some interesting ideas about art and I found a lot of strange parallels with the time period in music. It takes place in the late 20s, around the time Schoenberg had fully developed his 12-tone technique and was teaching it to Berg and Webern, if I'm not mistaken. That was music that was taking Roark's (the second architect's) approach: music very aware of its past and continuing it, but music which was made only for the 20th century and which didn't mash together bits of previous music that people found "pretty" just because the public thought it was pretty.

Unfortunately for music, Schoenberg became associated not only with intentionally ugly music (he called it "the emancipation of the dissonance"), but with the Nazis being opposed to it, which meant that his music came to represent the music of the Free World and anyone who didn't write in his style was a Communist. At the same time, the music which was approved by the Nazis and later the Soviets is what people wanted to hear--Orff, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich, to name a few. As a result, people couldn't stand what they were allowed to hear and weren't allowed to hear what they could stand.

Sure, there were some exceptions, mostly in America (Gershwin, Copland, Bernstein), but even they were ostracized by their peers who preferred industrial-sounding, experimental music by composers most of the public hasn't heard of--Cowell, Boulez, and Ruth Crawford Seeger, for example. What's curious to me is how many of them actually were Communists, regardless. Copland, for example, when he started writing very "American" music was supposedly writing it as "music for the people."

To put it in short terms, this time period was pretty much the breaking point when "high art" got put on a little too high of a pedestal, to the point where the average passerby would only have seen the column and not been willing to climb to see the beauty on top. The process had been in place for about 100 years, but I would say that this is the time when people really stopped caring and instead turned to pop art that "cultured" people have been trained to turn their noses up at. And for me, personally, the most devastating part of it all is that I still deeply love high art, but I also deeply love "the people," and reconciling the two has been an incredibly difficult process that I daresay I will never complete.
Sleeping: X
Blogging: X
Reading: X
Exercise: OOUF (I don't know that I mentioned it, but yesterday was the first day I actually recorded on my numberless calendar; I'm also working on a good routine for the first two categories.)

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