Controversy

What do you think of this cover for Reich’s piece?  If you don’t listen to much Reich, maybe read an article to catch up on what’s going on.  I have an opinion for sure, but it’s not a popular one.  The image and my opinion are below after checking out some other links if you want.

http://www.slate.com/id/2299787/pagenum/all/#p2

http://www.andres.com/2011/07/21/cover-matters/

http://www.nonesuch.com/journal/steve-reich-wtc-911-album-cover-revealed-2011-07-20

Image credit: Slate.com

My opinion:

First, the designer Barbara de Wilde, is a brilliant cover/sleeve artist for books and music whose covers are art.  In a time where LP covers have faded almost completely into oblivion, and shoddy graphic design abounds, it is refreshing to see an artist with so much passion in something few have ever thought of as being an art form.  So, as far as to how I judge this cover, based on the designer/artist’s and the composer’s intentions, I must first judge this image as a piece of art.

Secondly, since I am judging the image as art with intention from its artist, I find its creation completely valid, and regardless of my own personal taste, should respect its creation, even if not its content.  It is seemingly not vulgar, pornographic, or in some way purposely detestable for the sake of shock value, which again means I should judge it with some sort of respect.

Thirdly and finally,

I love it.  Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t love it like ice cream, or hot wings, or movie night with my wife, but I love it like I do all art that moves me, especially art that reaches deeply inside my being and its experiences (like the Pulitzer Prize winning piece written for the same event that WILL haunt you if you give it your full attention with the lights off and speakers up.)  You cannot look at the image though, especially as someone who watched this happen, and think about something else.  You cannot look at the image and find room for other thought material or have a flashback to another moment.  You are immediately taken to an emotional or even spiritual place remembering an event as culturally changing as the Atom Bomb.  It is stunning, but not like a sunset, but like an aggressive surge of lightning only meters away.

And isn’t it funny?  The underfunded, under-attended, slowly bleeding-to-death classical music world has a problem with it.  It’s like classical music wants to be edgy without a risk of getting cut.  They don’t want to sell out to celebrities and collaborations with “lesser musicians,” but want to be “serious art” without taking the risks it takes to make serious art.

Not only do I love it, I think we need more marketing inspiration like this.  Many classical composers (like David Lang) have benefited from this type of emotional branding to emotional music.   Why should we fail to use art for the benefit of art just because it makes people uncomfortable?  Isn’t that fearlessness of stirring emotions what makes us artists in the first place?

What do you think?

Leave a comment below!

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4 Comments

Filed under Music

4 responses to “Controversy

  1. Evan

    ‎”The underfunded, under-attended, slowly bleeding-to-death classical music world has a problem with it. It’s like classical music wants to be edgy without a risk of getting cut. They don’t want to sell out to celebrities and collaborations with “lesser musicians,” but want to be “serious art” without taking the risks it takes to make serious art.”

    You’re absolutely right. The classical music world is conservative (meaning backwards-looking and risk-averse, here) to a fault. Symphony orchestras play old music for their bluehair patrons, and forward-looking academics are pilloried as being out of touch with listeners, and many instrumentalists stick with old music too. Using a new and and reaction-inducing image to argue the relevance of this deep and artistically-wrought music is absolutely appropriate. I mean, the alternative is the shallow, brain-dead world of the Toby Keith, ranting and raving and inciting for violence, without any deeper emotional/mental reaction. And if that’s who gets all the airplay, it’s time to change something.

    • So well-put and poetic how you describe the “backwards-looking and risk-averse” classical music culture. The “reaction-inducing image” is “appropriate” as you say, because the music is supposed to be the exact same way. Art is contingent on the well-founded judgements of the artists to make relevant and “reaction-inducing” art. Music that does not create a reaction is absolutely pointless. I suppose many content with hearing all the different Mozart Symphonies over and over again don’t really want to react to it. They want to take expensive naps in their Sunday best. It also seems that those same patrons do not realize that Mozart wrote constantly to keep his music fresh and up to date. But of course, that was before recording technology, but nevertheless one in Mozart’s time would have prided themselves on hearing a new work by Heir Mozart instead of concentrating on his “less mature” works. It is really only in the 20th and 21st century that the pride in the old has become so popular and necessary.

      Because really, that’s where the heart of the problem lies. Artistic communities are upheld by these “bluehair patrons,” that are the opposite of progressive. Their contributions keep these institutions alive, but they are not living. So I guess in short, how the hell do we fix this?

  2. My initial reaction to the cover is that I don’t like it. I find it offensive. I find it lacking in taste. And though it is masterfully created, I feel like its only purpose is for shock value.

    However- I don’t have a problem with any of that.

    It is art advertising art.

    I believe that we, as a country, have become too complacent about 9/11. We have forgotten the images and stories and events that surrounded that day. All of us can remember the pride and unity and oneness we felt as a country in the moments and months following the event.

    If Reich wants to write a piece that is as daunting and horrific as you proclaim it is then more power to him. If a cover wants to be created that contains murderous pictures like this one – I say go for it. If as a society we begin to try and censor ourselves or cater to the “common” interest, then we have lost all sight of the freedoms we enjoy – we would be losing hold of the very reason those terrorists decided to fly that plane – celebration of personal freedom and expression.

    The bigger problem here is the what has been discussed in the comments. Fans of classical music are dwindling away. While I don’t have a problem with Toby Keith or less serious music (Ask yourself – would you rather have a society that listens to pop music or NO music at all?) I believe we need to continue to find ways to reach a generation of concert goers that are not interested in the complete works of Mozart. That’s why I am a fan of programming (in the band genre) new and progressive works that may be of less artistic value alongside traditional, historic band works that provide the foundation of the wind band repertoire.

    Just this week, in San Diego, the San Diego Symphony Orchestra performed a 3 movement/3 piece set of video game martial arts music programmed with blue-hair music – GENIUS!! Orchestras that refuse to find ways to reach a younger audience by doing Summer POPS concerts, performing progressive/controversial works and pairing the concerts with other arts (dance/video/narration etc) will continue to fail.

    Good post, Mr. Walker!

    • I love your reaction and how well thought out it is. I do wish more people could possess their opinion against something while respecting the exact opposite viewpoint. There are very few people like that.
      To answer your question, I absolutely do not wish pop music gone from the world, but it is indeed a business built on some thin populations of talent with only the backbone of money and high school teenagers to support it. I guess I wish pop music didn’t have such a large market share compared to “classical.” There is no reason in my mind as to why the market share is so low except for that we haven’t marketed great, new, thought and emotion-evoking music, to the generation coming up.
      While I do not mind mixed programming at all, and in fact, it’s a great idea. There needs to be plenty of variety mixed with calculated risks.

      I guess I should have just skipped the last part and said that it seems that the percentages of old/new, serious/light, and pop/classical are off.

      Thank you again, I’m flattered that you took the time to check out and comment here! Don’t be a stranger!

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