Sunday, October 26, 2014

are they better than others?

The Eleven watch Tim's Vermeer the other night and it led to some discussion about artistry. One problem right off the bat is that I love Vermeer, always have, so the movie can be a bit of downer when you realize that it's premise - that Vermeer used a bit of technological sleight-of-hand - is more than likely true. What this led to was a spirited discussion of artistry, composition, and what is, no doubt, an endless debate about greatness. If an artist of grand repute (maybe not repute, but whatever) isn't quite what we may have been led to believe, is the underlying work somehow less creative?

I've immediately revisited my long lost "Milli Vanilli Treatise": Does the fact that who we thought was singing the song negate the quality of the song?

Sure, it's not great stuff by many standards, but it's pretty catchy, right? People were burning records when they found out they were lip-syncing (in fact, didn't even sing on the record), which doesn't seem to be much of an issue these days. I think half of the recording industry is full of people who hire songwriting talent - bring back the Brill Building!  - and then overproduce the 'records' and live shows. There's a lot of Milli Vanilli going on these days, we just seem used to it. So, does the fact that Vermeer composed his portraits and them probably used some form of optics to create them somehow violate what we consider great talent? Is the work less beautiful? Do we still believe, as we did/do with Vermeer, that there are actual genius who can see / hear / create beyond the capabilities of their peers?

We  know there are shortcuts in painting and recorded music (and in live musical performance in many cases), so are the two equal? Painting isn't normally done live so what may happen behind the scenes remains (or so it may have seemed ) a mystery. With musical performance we can ask to see or watch a performance to somehow validate skills, with caveats like minimal amplification and electronics. What about writing? Certainly there loads of great writers - Shakespeare being in question - that may or may not have written everything we assign to their genius. Does it matter? Is Hamlet less amazing if we find out it was penned by someone else?

What do I think? I still believe there are geniuses out who walk amongst mortals. Whether they are songwriters, performers, artists, or authors. Some may have an (unfair?) advantage of life lessons that can be encompassed in song or work. Some may have an ability to compose scenes and imagines in a way that no one else can manage. I think I'm aware of technology and tricks, and I'm okay with it.

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