Monday, November 03, 2014

Why We Write About the Arts

So I'm getting some comments and quotations, and (I think) not just from the Pelleastrian and his other pseudonyms, claiming that criticism is worthless, and criticizing or writing about or analyzing music is worthless. (Or something like that.) All you have to do is listen to it!

First, I'll repeat what I asked earlier: if you believe that, why are you reading this blog? Why are you bothering to comment on my words about music or criticism?

Second, I'll ask everyone to consider the anti-intellectualism that's inherent in these claims, where analyzing and thinking about a work of art, whether an opera or a painting or a poem, are dismissed as unimportant.

I am not in any way trying to downplay the experience of seeing an opera, listening to a string quartet, or finding yourself in the same room as, say, the Portinari Triptych. But if these works of art don't inspire some curiosity or interest in learning more about them, you have missed something important in the experience. I mean, there are good reasons that there are libraries full of musical analysis and history, art history, and literary criticism. Yes, reading that stuff does enhance my experience of the works themselves, and the experience of millions of other people. If that's not true of you, fine; don't read about or discuss your favorite works of art. But don't denigrate the enterprise of intellectual attempts to understand these works, either.


Tom DePlonty said...

I would be willing to bet the people saying that criticism is useless are delighted to speak and write about their own musical ideas. This pure experience no words thing is transparent baloney. (And, you know, trolling.)

Lisa Hirsch said...


Personal to GCR/Dan/Pelleastrian/etc: I said a couple of postings ago that I would not be publishing any of your comments. That question you're trying to answer is rhetorical, something for you to ponder.

Mary Jane Leach said...

I've found reviews invaluable when writing about concerts from the past, especially when there is more than one review of the same concert. Not only do they clarify details - dates, venue, performers, etc., but interesting to extrapolate what the concert and music were like from the varied descriptions.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Yep, yep, yep.