A different way of valuing music. The broccoli gap between the physical and the plastic arts.
JCHSo some guy just paid $175 Million for a painting. Think of that.
Roger CortonAnd why does that bug you so much?
JCHThat’s not even the thing that bugs me. The guy plans to lend the thing to a museum so they can put it on display.
RCAgain, why does that bug you?
JCHIt’s about value. $175 million for a painting… or rather just to say ‘that’s my painting’. It doesn’t do anything. It’s all about ownership.
RCLast try, why does that bug you?
JCHIt makes me think about just how devalued music is and why that is.
JCHExactly. The idiot…
RCThe rich idiot.
JCH…the rich idiot gets to say ‘I own this’. I think it’s nothing more complex than that. A painting is a physical object. But music? An art based on time has no value in our world. And at it’s root, I think that is a quintessentially American value.
JCHI think one reason that music thrived for a few while in those old empires is that they had a different value system. They weren’t capitalists, they just assumed they were ‘culture’ so they didn’t need objects to show how cultured they were. They personified culture. Today? Prince William and Harry play polo. Back then? Yer average Hapsburg or Hohenzollern would play the piano. Hell, Frederick The Great was a mean flute player. They valued music. It was expected. Apparently Arab cultures highly valued poets. That certainly was the tradition in Ireland.
But America has never valued music. It had no intrinsic value. Any art that doesn’t create a physical object is considered kinda frivolous. It’s been that way since the days of the ‘frontier’. And what drives me nuts is that this point of view has filtered up the food chain to the other arts. They all crap on music.
JCHSure. Think about my old boss Garrison. He does his really big shoe every week on NPR glorifying down-home Americana; the ‘essence’ of American music. But on the other hand he also does a daily show to further poetry and authors of ‘great literature’. And that’s how everyone rolls these days–the literary guy who worships Dylan or Lou Reed or The Carter Family.
JCHBack when music was relevant? At all those ‘moveable feasts’ you read about in college? Stravinsky hung out with Auden. Miles and Ellington knew all the great artists of their eras too. But at some point, the rest of the arts said ‘Sayonara’ to their musical peers. Now? Ask a ‘serious’ writer or painter what music they identify with?
RCLou Reed. Dylan. Kanye.
JCHRight. And if I may digress into bad philosophy for a moment…
RCI have maybe 45 seconds of tolerance.
JCHThen I’ll have time to spare. Look, this is why Ayn Rand kills me. The funniest bit in Atlas Shrugged is where she envisions a world where the great composer…
JCHThank you. ‘Halley’ is revered in the ‘new’ and ‘better’ world. But in the world I live in Libertarians listen to Kid Rock and The Dead, not the latest symphony by whoever. Her idea that culture would rise to the top in a truly ‘free’ market is absolute rubbish. Ironically, the best art ever seen has been created under empire; or rather, enlightened empire.
RCI think you’re over-simplifying Halley but whatever. But other than sour grapes that you weren’t fortunate enough to be born back in 1770 what’s the point?
JCHIt’s just another way to say that cultured music is not self-sustaining, especially in America since the better mouse trap theory doesn’t doesn’t work in the ‘free market’.
RCSo what? What if I care more about folk music and I don’t give a shit about no stinkin’ Philharmonica?
JCHThen I don’t know what I could say to convince you. Except this: Perhaps music is now the broccoli of the arts.
RCMeaning that everyone should eat it because it’s good for us? Plenty of fiber? Anti-oxidants?
JCHMeaning that culture offers far greater nourishment but you have to learn how to cook in order to dig the taste.
JCHTalk to any vegan for five minutes. They have this entire sermon about, in addition to all the other benefits, how great the food tastes. But you have to learn how to do it before you can experience the nirvana. You have to dive deep into the whole scene before you can reach that enjoyment. Music is like that. If you’re not educated, at least a bit, you can never go beyond the visceral (and unhealthy) burgers.
RCBut very tasty burgers.
JCHAs you say. But as I said, my little vegan story is the best I can do as far as convincing people why they ‘should’ take music more seriously.
RCI’m really sorry, but I think for most people, it’s about as satisfying as vegan cuisine itself.
JCHI hear ya. I was a macrobiotic kinda guy for five years. So I don’t have the answer. All I wanted to say with the whole ‘175,000,000’ comment was to give a tangible example of how music is not valued relative to other arts.
RCAnd to the the food metaphor?
JCHThat’s just to point out the hypocrisy. People -say- they value nutrition but they mostly eat unhealthy food. And when you point out that it takes a little work to learn to appreciate the wonders of broccoli?
RCBut paintings don’t seem to suffer from that broccoli gap.
JCHWell said. There is something very powerful about ownership and scarcity. But more importantly, it’s important to recognise that we kid ourselves when we say that the word ‘value’ has multiple meanings. In our culture; at this point in time; ‘value’ has but one meaning.
RCYou’re referring to music?
JCHI’m referring to anything. To paraphrase Wood Guthrie, “You won’t find that it’s so hot, if it ain’t got the dough re mi.” Music is not worth much anymore and the dollar value is just a reflection of our inner feelings about it on any level you can name. And we should be honest enough to accept that truth; either to change things or to just give it up. What irks me is pretending we care.