The classic art forms break down into the visual arts (drawing, painting, photography, ceramics, sculpting, and architecture), the literary arts (poetry and prose) and the performing arts (music, dance, and theater), which often combine aspects of the other two.
In addition, I believe many periphery activities have artistic aspects. Some of that is in the collective, for example the way that a city-scape can combine multiple architectural visions into a single impact. Then also, many activities become performance once they are observed, from tennis courts to operating theaters. The only argument to be had about these is the role of intent, but all of these occur with an awareness that an audience exists.
What feels particularly interesting to me is that we respond to the various forms so differently. While we do make pilgrimages to view visual arts, we originally intend to live with them. They are decorative arts denuded of utility. We value them for their appearance and what that appearance does to us. Ultimately, if we do live with them long enough, we grow accustomed to them (possibly discovering them anew when our attention is returned), even tired of them.
The literary arts require our time. They ask for attention. Plenty of people talk about re-reading favorite works, but life is bounded and I can’t imagine anyone reads the same book more than once per year. True, a favorite passage may be memorized, but then it starts to cross over into performance.
The performing arts attract our greatest devotion. Television has made it possible to view favorites over and over. We can inflict them on others or catch up on missed sections. We have people who record popularity so we know the likelihood of any particular performance being a shared experience.
Music feels different,
however. We’re content to listen to the same songs repeatedly. No one wants to watch the same movie more than twice per day (or maybe even twice per year). Yet, we happily listen to the same song hourly.
More than that, we have so separated the performance from the experience of the art that we barely recognize the artistic effort involved. The same is true with television. We barely give a thought to the set dresser or the sound man, let alone the person who conceived the story. At a live performance, an amazing set can’t help but awe the audience. With music, we let the radio wash over us with songs and rarely notice the shear brilliance that went into the original performance.
Granted, the hyper-commercialization of art has corrupted the entire world that surrounds our most popular arts, but we trend too easily toward derogating those that don’t meet our over-heated expectations.
Looking Glass disappeared long ago. You can track down some of the members after-lives on the internet. They had them, just like we all have lives before and after every moment. I’ve grown a lot less fond of the term “one hit wonder” as time passes. While factually accurate and a little bit interesting, I am regularly amazed by how much pleasure can be put into the world with one hit.
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. 14 more to go.
New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.
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