Tiziano Vecelli, painter
Weird concerns come to my mind all the time. How much do we actually like the stuff that we like? Without being facetious, do I like Three Dog Night because I happened to be born when they had numerous hits on the radio? How much did that repetition have to do with it? More importantly, how much did coexisting in the same cultural bubble have to do with it?
I’m not talking about how much we actually dislike those things that we profess to dislike. This isn’t about whether or not someone who complains about a genre of music truly dislikes everything about it. This isn’t meant to be about ignorance, though it could be.
Let’s consider if I had lived in 1850. Obviously, my sense of popular music would have been vastly different. For one thing, depending on where I lived, my preferences were worlds apart. In one hemisphere, I might whistle Stephen Foster ditties while in another, I would be humming arias. Currently, I can do neither. Does that mean that I actually don’t like Foster or Charles Gounod? Surely, both of them have influenced those who came afterwards, but neither has been on any jukebox that I can recall. (Yes, I do know a few of Foster’s songs, but that doesn’t mean that they’re current hits.)
The hemispherical distinction continues to matter. I have no idea what is popular in Sophia anymore than I know what people are listening to in Winnipeg. I could find out, but I’m no more likely to spend my life keeping up with hit music in Bulgaria, Singapore and Iceland than I am likely to follow every development in modern painting in Manhattan. We are all products of what happens to us. We exert some influence by setting our levels of openness as well as entering situations guaranteed to contain new experiences, but we live within fairly extreme limits in comparison to the infinite possibilities.
For all the usual reasons
(mostly unavailability), I hadn’t seen a lot of Titian until I was a bit older. Paging through an art book one day (we look at the darnedest things while waiting for people), I stumbled upon The Flaying of Marsyas. Apparently Iris Murdoch liked it, too, which I only just learned. It is a horrifying portrait of hubris.
Now, I cannot imagine who hung this painting in their palace or manor or home. Wherever it was, the potential audience for this painting had to be limited. I daresay more people have seen a reproduction of this painting in the last ten years than ever saw it during the first three centuries of its existence.
Moreover, this painting is not really in my wheelhouse. Despite what you might think, I don’t seek out the work of 16th century masters. How was I to know that I would like Titian? We’re supposed to know Michelangelo and Da Vinci, but most of us are done with both of them after some interiors, a canvas or two, and one statue. I don’t know. Maybe I would like more of their stuff, but it’s hard enough finding out about Raphael and Donatello.
What’s it all about?
You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 39 more to go.
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