Thursday, June 03, 2010

Greatness


I am not greedy;
I do not seek to possess
the major portion
of your days.

I am content if,
on those rare occasions
whose truth can be stated
only by poetry,
you will, perhaps,
recall an image --
even only the aura
of my films.

And what more
could I possibly ask
as an artist
than that your
most precious visions,
however rare,
assume, sometimes,
the forms of my images.

-- Maya Deren


I find it hard to believe that any artist would go through the exhausting process of creative work without at least some (however unacknowledged) desire for recognition.

Don't call it a lust for fame, necessarily (though for some of us, that's clearly what it is). Let's say instead that it's a rational hunger for some sort of external proof that the whole thing (i.e., making art) isn't just an elaborate onanistic exercise, and that we're not just screaming pointlessly into the void.

And yet, there is a way to have that hunger for connection, while still maintaining a sense of perspective; a sense, in other words, of how rare it is, on the strength of the art alone, to truly reach another human being.

Which is why I love the above Deren quote (ganked from the beginning of her film Meshes of the Afternoon). I especially like the the fact that it includes the words "perhaps" and "sometimes."

My gloss: every connection, no matter how fleeting or rare, validates the entire enterprise.

[photo credit: Daquella manera]

4 comments:

Jeff Albert said...

Well said, by both of you.

mrG said...

I was listening to an interview of Charlie Parker by Paul Desmond where he asks Bird if he knew his music would change the world. Bird said that he hoped a few people would like it, but that he was only playing the way he felt the music should be played, that it was just a matter of fact that he'd always had this perception. That what he was doing would change the world was not relevant, but yes, he did hope he'd find one or two cats out there who'd be interested in playing with him. He found Miles first.

Not surprisingly, we find the same comment almost verbatim coming from the Benny Goodman character in the BG Story, that what they were doing just made sense to them, and they couldn't understand why nobody else liked it, and they certainly couldn't understand why everyone liked that Nat Shilkret society stuff better, and it was only because they were marginalized in Chicago that the radio put them on so late at night that no one in NY or Chicago would be there to listen but as chance and timezones would have it, it was the PERFECT timing to have your music played for other young people on the west coast, and of course the Paladium gig is the stuff of legend :)

Even John Cage, while he made his music because he just felt that was the way music needed to be made, and while he said it was ok that people reacted so strongly against his stuff (if they reacted at all) he was nonetheless visibly disappointed when people wouldn't 'get' what he'd thought was so plainly put.

So there's two lessons I think: one is that yes, we, as social creatures, would love to have what we say be understood and taken away as part of who the audience has become because of us, but also, when we look at the history, we see that it is secondary to the task of just doing what you know is the right thing to do, and we wouldn't be the first to be left standing, like Seiji Ozawa, alone and rejected in an empty hall.

Which then brings me to my own personal greatest koan: Why did Schoenberg travel to Berlin? He had no money, everyone hated or ignored everything he'd ever done, his homelife was falling apart, he was depressed ... and it all changed when he got to Berling, but what I don't understand, and what I need to know, is why did he choose Berlin?

cinderkeys said...

Every connection, no matter how fleeting or rare, validates the entire enterprise.

Yes.

It's nice when somebody likes our music. It's gratifying when somebody loves it. But it's miraculous when somebody GETS it.

Andrew Durkin... said...

Thanks, all.

Gary -- that's a great question, re: Schoenberg. The nihilist in me wants to say it was a happy accident. But who knows?

BTW -- is that interview with Desmond and Parker online somewhere?