Saturday, February 11, 2006

Art for the sake of art=commodification

This is something I have been mulling over for a few years. On hte one hand I don't dig bubblegum music and on the other hand I have lmits to what I can get behind in the avant garde. I don't mind the Monkees but don't care for NKOTB. I like music by Ligeti, Messiaen, Penderecki, and Takemitsu but don't like COrnelius Cardew or Pierre Boulez. And as I considered the complaints on either side of the high/low art divide it seems to me that both sides can make the same mistake in different ways. IT seems that art for the sake of art and art as commodity is functionally the same process.

Think of it this way, in either case the avant gard commission or the bubblegum song is created as an end unto itself. In the former case the ideology of art expansion is its own motive and the art object or musical work is the motive for its own existence. Now while it is true that bubblegum pre-fab pop is created to make money it is also made to be infectious and yet utterly disposable and made in such a way that haircuts and styles can change but the music can still move units. In both cases, though, the art object is an end unto itself veering toward the extremes of either Appolonian or Dionysian impulses.

Where the two styles differ is not in the process of commodifcation but the means. It's basically a question of patronage. Elliot Carter doesn't write music for free anymore than Justin Timberlake does, if you will. Aned I don't feel that the distinction between the kind of music they make has to be as hard and fast as some people want it to be. It doesn't mean I'll ever listen to the Spice Girls but that I've become a bit more, um, circumstpect or something about the social and financial means through which music gets created and distributed. Maybe if I one day have my music published or recorded on CDs and people are actually buying it I'll have different feelings.

While I don't think the philosophy always yielded interesting music Hindemith's idea of useful music still seems relevant. If music is divorced from social functions beyond being enjoyed for its own sake (which is easy to do, if you think about it) then there are all kinds of ways in which differences of taste become just that. I happen to hold that there are such thing as aesthetic principles or paradigms that exist across a cultural milleu but I feel these are often as much a function of the cognitive process of the brain as some manifestation of a "perfect" song or painting. This means that because different brains perceive things differently you get varied opinions and varied perceptions. That's pretty obvious, I guess.

That's about all I can think of to say on the topic at this time. Topics this abstract are perhaps best left short and relatively tidy. I can get into the messy details of such speculation later.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Disney buys Pixar

As a friend of mine put it, "If you can't beat `em, buy `em." Disney animated films have, in my opinion, been on a steady decline since the baelful Little Mermaid. After twenty years of Disney doing the same basic song and dance about the plucky but misunderstood young person with the single parent who is well-meaning but bumbling and the diffident but eager love interest whose affetion is blocked by the conniving of the stereotypical authority-seeker ... Michael Eisner's legendary words "we are not obligated to make history" have, inadvertantly, made history.

Which is to say Disney animated films tend to blow. The only attachment Disney has to cartoons that are actually still cool is through Studio Ghibli or Pixar. And now it seems Pixaar is going to BE DIsney where animation is concerned.

But Pixar's films have not prospered because people like CGI movies. It's because they tell good stories. Wallace & Gromit has done well because the creators of those films made good characters that we can relate to. It's not a coincidence that this year the films that have been nominated aren't CGI. The CGI films sucked.

It remains to be seen if Pixar will keep making films as good as they have so far. I hope so but even Beethoven wrote crappy music after a while before he wrote good stuff. The luxury of history is that we can skip the artistic accomplishements that embarrass us. While Pixar is making history we won't have that luxury! So here's hoping the worst Pixar film over the next ten years is still better than The Little Mermaid. I wish the people at Pixar the best. Now that Pixar is in the Disney fold I have one less reason to avoid Disney films. After all, up until recently Pixar wasn't technically Disney.