Recently, I attended a church service where the speaker offered this as a qualification for art: it has to stand the test of time. Indeed, this is fairly conventional wisdom, but I propose that it is time to challenge that wisdom.
We still have “Flight of the Bumblebee.” We still have that painting of Dogs Playing Poker. Years from now will we be able to find the Greatest Hits of country super-group Alabama? Probably. Art? Not to my mind, but it depends on whom you ask.
What about works written for the now? It seems reasonable to me that a work reflecting a current situation could have powerful meaning in a specific moment, for a specific crowd, in a specific place. Then the same work could be meaningless in a different context. To say a work must “stand the test of time” is really to say it must have mass appeal to be art.
Since when has art had that?
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My wife (and my first-call woodwind specialist), Christy Banks hosted a single reed symposium at Millersville University a few weeks ago. I had a couple of works performed, and some members of Lincoln, Nebraska’s New Music Agency came out to play. The crowd was the kind I most enjoy– between fifty and a hundred fairly curious listeners, some experienced in new music, others completely new to it. The pieces were played well and there was good conversation afterwards.
It made me realize that I have something in Nebraska and Alabama that I don’t have in Pennsylvania yet: Performers who champion my music. That will change soon enough, but for now I’ll be leaning a little harder on me, my wife, and my electronic music chops.
At least the projects are coming. I’m currently nursing the following: a commission with a choreographer as part of the Susquehanna Arts Trail, a commission for a trombone quartet’s performance at a convention, a meet-the-composer residency in Nebraska, and a performing tour from here to the southeast. That stuff doesn’t happen until 2007 though, so for now I’m doing a lot of meetings. Man, it takes a lot of meetings to get projects going.
And I do like the “meeting” part of it to an extent, but if anyone wants to be my Nadezhda von Meck, I’d totally say yes”¦
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