Thursday, November 1, 2007

To Every Medium Its Place...

To anyone who has been awaiting my entries with bated breathe (*cough* dead-metaphor alert *cough*), I apologize for the gap between this entry and the last. To everyone else (alright, then, probably just "everyone"), carry on, and thanks for stopping by. My distractions have been multiplying rather vigorously recently, leaving me little time for frequent blogging.

As this is still most definitely the case, I will present this entry as, rather than a critical essay as many in the past have been most like, a small collection of notes and thoughts that could prove thought-provoking or useful, to me, you, or some combination of us.

First, a quote.

"It's difficult to talk about these songs indepth. That's why they're songs."

This statement was made by Eric Clapton, in his recently published "Clapton; The Autobiography." I have to admit, I'm not really a Clapton fan at all, so I haven't actually read the book. Ironically, it comes to me by way of another artist that I'm not exactly a fan of, Stephen King. He printed the quote in his review of the guitarist's book, "Slowhand; Clapton remembers his life and his music" in the October 28, 2007 edition of the New York Times Book Review.

It's a pretty simple idea, and really boils down to the same concept as the old "writing about music is like dancing about architecture" cliche, but for some reason it struck me as a more direct and poignant way of expressing the concept. (If I remember right, that quote was referenced within the same review as well. No, I don't have it in front of me at present.) Part of me always wanted to argue about the older quote; the stubborn quixotic part of me that was thinking "Sure, I guess you hypothetically could "dance" about "architecture"... define "dance" and define "architecture"... hell, define "about," for that matter. Clapton's version leaves little ambiguous space for the over-analytical among us to pull these sorts of punches (oh look, another dead metaphor.).

This is no new idea, I'm well aware, but merely one of those sound-bites that struck me as an aptly expressed summation of something that was in need of a more forcible finger upon it. Reading it was one of those "That's it" moments for me, helping to grasp why so many of us are tangling ourselves in our quests for artistic expression by way of so many different simultaneous mediums, and critically fascinated by the interplay, interreliance, and interdependence amongst them. Each medium expresses a different aspect of the thought or concept, and each is self-sufficient in the same ways and for the same reasons that it is dependent on expressions from other angles. When I'm at a loss for the tone of particular scene of a work of fiction, for instance, often only changing my creative mask to "poet" or "songwriter" can appropriately capture what I'm looking for. From there, the resulting mediums must either be combined (in often expirimental ways that wouldn't have been readily thought of by any other means or for any other reasons) or utilized as ladder-rungs to understand the appropriate creative voice that the initial piece requires to be composed in.

Not a bad snippet, overal, especially courtesy of two artists that I don't particularly care for.

In a bit of housekeeping news, I am considering adding a side-bar to the site with links to the blogs of others that I read or find noteworthy or relevant to the topics at hand. If you run a blog or post to a collective site and are interested in pointing me in the direction of your content or swapping links, please be in touch. After a weekend in the Boston area that turned out to be timed with the final couple games of the World Series sweep, a site pertaining to that sort of thing seems knee-jerk appropriate to me right now. See the right column, right below my bio.

On the note of my recent trip home... rest in peace, Memere. You'll be missed.

Lorraine L. Provencher, December 25, 1929 to October 26, 2007


Shawnte said...

I don't usually like statements like those, because they generally seem to be an attempt to dismiss or diminish discussion. I never feel that a song, poem, film is beyond discussion. In fact, I find that to be the main criteria for evaluating the success of any creative product. Can it spark a discussion?

I've found that most people who have this problem get too concerned about whether or not their impressions are "right," according to the artist's intentions.

I don't worry about being wrong, because my impressions are my impressions and they cannot be refuted. I'm not too worried about whether or not the ideas that bloom in my mind while reading a page, coincide exactly with what the author thought he was saying.

Those tangents that the audience ends up following in their own minds are every bit as relevant, to me.

Bernard P. Provencher LeVautour said...

Thanks Shawnte.

In many regards, I COMPLETELY agree with what you're saying (in other regards I definitely (respectfully) don't... the "Reader's Response" movement is still among the banes of my existence as a scholar... often right up there with Marxist pseudo-neo-Platonic pragmatism).

Your concern about these sort of statements being cop-outs, avoidances of legitimate criticism and interpretation is one of the points that I definitely agree with you on. This is actually another spot where I feel like Clapton's quote is less questionable than the "dancing about architecture" one. The architecture quote seems to refer more to criticism from listeners other than the creators themselves, whereas Clapton's refers instead to the creation itself, not the interpretation of it, which is the realm in which I feel that these sort of thoughts ARE actually relevant. My intention was not to say that it is impossible to speak of one medium in a different one, but quite the opposite (this blog [or art crit. in general] wouldn't exist or have a purpose to me at all if I felt that way). I think, rather, that the INITIAL creation of a work of art can often only be accomplished in the medium that utilizes the framework most appropriate to the concept being expressed, and this is how I interpret Clapton's quote. If the statement intended to be made with a song could just as easily (and possibly more thoroughly) be made by writing a work of short fiction or a memoir (as an elaborate explanation of the songwriter's intentions or inspiration may verge on), why wouldn't it be accomplished that way? Therefore, what purpose would the song itself have? It wouldn't have one. Because the song DOES have a purpose in making an expression that merely the explanation of that purpose wouldn't fulfill, I feel that establishing this separation, maintaining that by the very nature of the chosen mode of expression that NO attempt at explanation in another form could explain certain things expressed only by the original medium, is important. These are the grounds from which I understand and agree with the Clapton/ King quote.

Ashley said...

I probably shouldnt attempt at reading things at 8am, but, since I did, alls I have to say about it is good job.