- The Washington Times - Monday, April 19, 2010

Requirement of art

“The greatest music will always require more than just casual listening if one is to understand its message and appreciate its complexities. The question of accessibility is then turned round upon the audience: is it prepared to listen intently and repeatedly. … High art always requires an effort if it is to be properly appreciated: yet the person appreciating soon understands the rewards to be had in return for that effort.

“[Richard] Wagner has become a symbol of what is inaccessible and unreachable about classical music. … Yes, some of his operas may be four hours or more long. Yes, they may be sung in a foreign language. Yes, they may have all sorts of themes and motifs that only book-study will illuminate. Yes, one usually has to pay a fortune to see a performance, assuming one can actually get a ticket.

“None of that, however, alters the fact that the music, if one bothers to listen to it, is compelling in its originality and beauty. It will draw the listener in, albeit in some cases over time; and it is precisely that lack of superficiality that gives it such enduring appeal to those who have made the effort to know it.”

Simon Heffer, writing on “Don’t Be Afraid of Wagner. He’s not a Nazi” on April 10 at the Telegraph

Influence on art

“Critics have long discussed ‘influence,’ often in vague terms, and there is a never-ending stream of influence studies within academe — as in Harold Bloom’s idiosyncratic but suggestive sequence of books in the 1970s and 80s, beginning with ‘The Anxiety of Influence’ (1973). Bloom famously ‘theorized’ the concept of influence by putting the process within the framework of Freudian psychoanalysis and its anxiety principle. He saw poets in perpetual conflict with those who went before them. Weak poets, in his view, depended too heavily on those whom they imitated; strong poets necessarily pulled away from their influences as they struggled to create voices of their own, often engaging in a process of misreading, which Bloom mapped in elaborate ways. …

“In my view, that seems a mistaken notion, however intriguing for critics. Perhaps as we think about poetry this month — National Poetry Month — we may reconsider the idea of influence. I would argue that poets have always thought of themselves as participating in a larger conversation, and that anxiety is not necessarily involved.”

Jay Parini, writing on “Dead Poets’ Society,” on April 11 at the Chronicle of Higher Education Review

But is it art

“The three games [video game designer Kellee Santiago] chooses as examples do not raise my hopes for a video game that will deserve my attention long enough to play it. They are, I regret to say, pathetic. I repeat: ‘No one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great poets, filmmakers, novelists and poets.’

“Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art? Bobby Fischer, Michael Jordan and Dick Butkus never said they thought their games were an art form. Nor did Shi Hua Chen, winner of the $500,000 World Series of Mah Jong in 2009. Why aren’t gamers content to play their games and simply enjoy themselves? They have my blessing, not that they care.

“Do they require validation? In defending their gaming against parents, spouses, children, partners, co-workers or other critics, do they want to be able to look up from the screen and explain, ‘I’m studying a great form of art?’ Then let them say it, if it makes them happy.”

Roger Ebert, writing on “Video games can never be art” on April 16 at his Chicago Sun-Times Journal

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