What art is

Here’s something I said at the Brown Symposium at Southwestern University, a gathering I raved about in my last post. What I said wasn’t a formal presentation, since there weren’t any, in the conversations I was part of. But it’s what I wanted to add to the discussion. 

Our moderator, for the symposium on “Ethics, the Arts, and Public Policy” posed some questions we might want to address. (He was Paul Gaffney, Professor of Theater at Southwestern, and dean of their Sarofim School of Fine Arts. And also quite a fine actor, to judge from how sharp and lively he was as narrator of a performance of Stravinsky’s L’histoire due soldat.) Here were his questions, which he expertly distilled from an email exchange that many of us had before the event:

  • What is art, in a public policy sense?  Is it a public good? A commodity? A service?  A luxury A form of entertainment and recreation? A social necessity?
  • What is its purpose? To entertain and amuse, or serve as a diversion from “real life”??  To educate? To challenge?  To be part of the public political discourse?   
  • Who gets to to say what is art, and what is worth preserving, producing or supporting?  Professors?  The NEA? The state arts council? The “man in the street?” Museum curators? Politicians?

Great questions! I didn’t consciously set out to answer them, but here’s what I said. 

I wouldn’t try to define art, but if I had to say what its role in our world is, I’d go to the last page of Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and quote what Stephen Dedalus, Joyce’s young artist/hero, says he’s going to do. He wants to “forge…the uncreated conscience of my race.”

And if that sounds wildly grandiose, remember that I’m not saying any individual artist does or needs to do that. Instead, I think it’s what art does as a collective activity, it’s what happens when many people do art. Our conscience — or consciousness — gets forged. 

So if that’s what I’m looking for, it’s clear — or certainly ought to be — that,, for at least a generation, the forging of our consciousness no longer happens exclusively in the fine arts (or high arts, or whatever you want to call them). It’s now spread into popular culture, and in fact — as creativity starts to permeate our lives  — into society at large.

Of course, you won’t see that if you’re prejudiced against popular culture — if you think, for instance, that popular culture is largely or even exclusively shallow, empty, hollow, created only for money. That’s not true at all. Popular culture, at the very least, has created its own kind of art, which isn’t fueled by commerce and might not even be popular. 

And, of course, the high arts aren’t exactly free of commerce. I cited Brahms, Verdi, and Picasso as artists who had tremendous commercial success. And just look at the art world now. 

The consequences, for public policy?

Well, first, the arts — and arts advocates — now look like an interest group, lobbying for support like any other. And one big goal (conscious or unconscious) of the arts, as an organized activity (and lobbying group), is therefore to deny that art has migrated away from their control. Which they do to persuade us all that they still need funding. Without the arts, they want us to believe — without officially designated art activity — there wouldn’t be any art. (I forgot to say this at Southwestern, but I’m including it here, because it’s a key part of the ideas I wanted to present. And will present elsewhere, starting here.)

I’m sure some people will be outraged to see me saying this. Though, on the other hand, I tried the idea out yesterday with two friends who make their living from the arts, and both said I didn’t go far enough. One even said that the goal of the arts (again as an organized activity) is to suppress art activity happening elsewhere, by declaring, implicitly or explicitly, that it can’t be art. 

Luckily, art — wherever it’s made — can’t be suppressed. As a Southwestern theater student said in the discussion, at this symposium. Artists are going to make art, no matter what. 

So, more specifically — the consequences for public policy?

We need to understand — accept, proclaim, welcome — the change. The arts should graciously withdraw from their pretense of superiority (artistically speaking), and happily coexist with all the art going on outside their control. 

And funding should be — ideally — directed toward art that really does forge our collective consciousness. And, more strongly, our conscience. Art, in other words, that really changes our world. Which might well mean less private and public money for symphony orchestras (which for the most part keep on doing the same old thing), and, in place of this, money now going to truly creative rock bands. 

Outrage! Did I really suggest that? It’s an idea worth thinking about. If you think orchestras are important because they preserve the classical masterworks, I’d say in reply that these masterworks are more than adequately preserved, both in live performance and in recordings. And that the amount of money we — as a society — channel into this preservation is far more than is needed. (The question of whether enough people pay attention to the masterworks we preserve is something else again — a question of what our culture values, not a question of funding.) 

And rock bands, we all should understand, don’t make much money. Oh, the big ones do. But when a band is starting out, it can’t make a living from its music. A string quartet, starting out, can go better, at the very least because its members can get paying gigs, as freelance musicians and as teachers, something that the people in a rock band largely can’t do. 

And if you worry that the band will go on to make millions (though very few bands ever do) — just remember that we already fund shows heading for Broadway, when they’re developed at nonprofit theaters. Those shows might, if the stars align right, make millions. So why rule the rock bands out?

But funding rock bands (or not funding them) isn’t the main question. The main thing is to channel arts support into truly creative activity, to support and foster creativity wherever it takes place. Which is largely going to be outside the arts.

Tomorrow: a demonstration of creativity in pop music, and a suggestion that pop music functions as a true artistic democracy. 
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  1. says

    Since the title of your post just happens to be the title of a book I co-wrote, allow me to make a few brief comments regarding your introductory remarks.

    Before one can say what “art” is and what its purpose is in a public policy sense, one must know what it is in an epistemological sense. That includes having what you declined to provide—an objective definition of the term. Who “gets to say what is art”? No one, just as no one “gets to say” what anything else is—furniture, for example. A thing is what it is (“A is A”). Absent a definition of art, how can Paul Gaffney, or you, or anyone else, say (for example) what its purpose in life is?

    As Lionel Ruby wrote in ‘Logic: An Introduction” (first published in 1950, when defining terms was still in vogue):

    “[I]f we desire to avoid obfuscation and discussions which move at cross-purposes, we must give definite and precise meanings to our terms. A definition sets a term within its proper boundaries, and the injunction ‘Define your terms!’ is of first importance.”

    It sure is.

    Louis Torres, Co-Editor, Aristos (An Online Review of the Arts), Co-Author, ‘What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand (2000) – http://www.aristos.org

  2. richard says


    Do you believe that “good” and “bad” in the arts can be discerned objectively? Look at the outroar over Esmeralda Spalding beating Justin Bieber.

  3. says

    In one of my theory classes we covered asymmetric and unusual meters, and each student had to present. One student brought in an Alkan etude on 10/16 (op. 35 #12). Other pieces brought in included “Everything in its right place” by Radiohead and “The Crunge” by Led Zeppelin.

    The etude was charming and everything. But the use of changing meter in the other two works was sublime. With the Crunge, we decided we could sit around for another hour talking about all the things going on rhythmically in that first lick and had to move on. With the interaction between text, harmony, rhythm and meter in the Radiohead, all we could do was scratch the surface.

    The idea that the Alkan is superior art belonging in a rarefied realm with Mozart and Beethoven, and the Radiohead and Zeppelin are lowly popular art lumped in with [choose whatever pop star you wish to vilify here], is mind-meltingly stupid. Not that Stravinsky or Bartok couldn’t stand up to Radiohead, only that the traditional categories have been useless for a long time.

  4. Bill Brice says

    Louis… I would like to raise an objection to your objection of Greg’s post. I understand the Joyce quote, and Greg’s citation of it, as a description of what art DOES, as opposed to its “purpose”. A result, in other words, rather than a conscious individual goal. And it applies to the community of practicing artists in the context of an embracing culture.

    For any individual artist to declare himself “the voice of his generation” would be self-defeating. Artists like Bob Dylan have struggled mightily to fend off that explicit label, and for good reason: a songwriter — or a symphonist or a novelist — needs to get to work on the voice of the work at hand and on the craft of bringing it to concrete reality. Visions of personal grandiosity seldom bring good results to such a task.

    Nevertheless, our sense of collective humanity certainly has been “forged” over time by our artists and storytellers. I imagine that was as true of those Cro-Magnon cave artists as it was of Beethoven or Tolstoy.

  5. joan sutherland says

    I find it interesting that each “genre” of art, including music, has a life cycle. Each genre produces its own classics which show themselves a couple of generations later. Older “rockers” despair over what’s being done by the youth of today. But even Metal classics start to rise to the surface in time. Classical works of art aren’t exclusive to composed music. A classic piece can’t really be identified finally except through hindsight. And there’s just as much value in seeing, hearing, watching or reading the great classics in literature, art, theatre and music from thousands of years ago as from the 60’s.

    Classical music uses the wrong terms to define itself. It’s true that today we tend to present the classics of composed music, but there are thousands of works by living and now dead composers we’ll never hear. If “classical” music is not the right word, it nevertheless reflects the mistake musicians (or various social institutions) have made. I prefer to call classical music “composed” music.

    Composed music, which is not quite the same “genre” as music composed FOR film, dance, opera, or theatre, is the art of arranging sounds according to some fundamental (though evolving) theories of sound and practice, in order that the sounds themselves express human belief,feeling,and beauty. It too has left us with its classics, just as folk, African, R&B, Metal, Musical Theatre and Movie scores have done. The term “composed music” is clean and doesn’t hit us as being morally superior, as “classical music” does.

    And today, because we use the wrong terms, we misunderstand what all of us is making. But I think we CAN contrast and compare an Art pursued as a profession and an art done as a personal exercise of for personal pleasure and satisfaction. Money needs to go in different directions for each. We can also contrast and compare the Arts with Technology- the skills and techniques of problem solving to allow the expression of the Arts, the art of making tools which solve our problems. We can contrast and compare furniture and buildings too, just as though we can’t define Beauty, we can “locate” it by contrasting it with Justice. We can’t really define God but we can contrast God with Caesar, so that we can better define what is “rendered” to whom.

  6. Albert Nekimken says

    Greg, you are brave to advance this arguement, but where is the evidence for your astounding statement, “if you think, for instance, that popular culture is largely or even exclusively shallow, empty, hollow, created only for money. That’s not true at all.”

    Whether “popular” art earns money or not is beside the point, which is: is it “art”? Or, is it succcessful art?

    You denigrate unconvincingly those who advocate any canon or quality standard in art.

    Bravo to you for insisting that high-brows expand their horizons to include “art” being created around them, but you neglect to mention how they are to differentiate between trash, poor art and brilliant art.

    Granted, this is a weighty subject for another time, but I tink you are much to quick to embrace the “new” merely beause it is new–and much too ready to jettison the old.

    Most of the “new,” like everying, is garbage, as Hemingway pointed out many years ago. The art of the “canon” has survived the test of time, even as the canon changes. The danger in defunding established art institutions is that many people will lose access to great art completely while being inundated with mediocre or inferior commercial art.

    Regarding rock music, it remains a total mystery to highbrows how to distinguish between a great and a failed rock band since they all sound pretty much the same–loud and obnoxious.

    You argue that we fail to apply critical rigor to rock and other popular music. The reason is that listening to such music makes us flee for our hearing. Repetitive listening to the standard repertoire may be boring, at times, but it doesn’t threaten our hearing.

    Albert, I think you have a choice to make. You might want to learn more about rock than you seem to know right now. Or, alternatively, you might want to retire, quite honorably, from any discussion that touches on its aesthetic merit.

    It never occurred to me to raise any question about how to tell if a rock song is good or bad. For anyone who knows the music, that comes as easily as breathing. And there’s a huge body of rock criticism which anyone can read. Rock and classical music don’t work in the same ways musically — in classical music, harmonic and formal niceties get a lot of attention, in rock sonic and rhythmic niceties do (as well as cultural ones — and all of this is an oversimplification). But that’s like saying Baroque and 12-tone music work in different ways. Anyone comfortable in any musical style will of course make critical distinctions. Forgive me if I took that for granted when I wrote my post!

  7. Donald Waits says

    This is a discussion led by amateurs. An artist does not concern him or herself with such questions. That is up to the so-called pundits in the so-called ART WORLD. Throughout history, artists just make art and do not get involved with the clap-trap of the academic nonsense that passes for “art speak”. For that reason, many artists are marginalized by the very individuals who get to say what art IS. NONE of these people actually make art. They discuss it, write about it, publish extremely esoteric nonsense about it, but, in the end, artists don’t really pay much attention to them. Large numbers of bloggers make a living writing about things they have no knowledge of. Good for them. They have a small living, living off of the labors of artists. What is art? I don’t care. Art is what a person does because he or she must have an outlet for the feelings and observations that engage them. If they are politically motivated, then they become commentators of the political scene, but are they “artists’ or are they “journalists”? Personally, as a PAINTER, i don’t care.

  8. Alightly says

    Take academics out of the arts. That alone would be a huge improvement and relinquish art from the burden of being definable.

  9. Ed McKeon says

    I’m with Louis Torres on this, but I’d go further. Public policy on ‘the arts’ – or ‘creativity’ as we began to refer to it this side of the pond, to hide our embarrassment – is based predominantly on a misconception of artistic practice. ‘Art’ is given positive actuality as a good which people can (strive to) appreciate, given sufficient education and information. As Richard says above, though, how can this ‘good’ be defined, and who gets to make the definitions?

    One way out of the hole is to see art as something that DOES, not just as something that IS. My – or your – striving to understand it then becomes part of its meaning and value. As a practice – including the creation, production, dissemination / presentation, reception and critical reflection – arts then lay the possibility of a public space and discourse as an alternative to political conflict / consensus. The arts are there to be contested as models of sensibility, that space between instinct and intellect.

    The consequence for public policy is therefore to promote the health of this public space – supporting artsjournal for example! – allowing all to participate, countering the market tendency to monopoly (of opinion, as in the mass media), supporting work in the margins that contests the status quo, and encouraging the presentation of work to heterogeneous audiences.

    I’m a bit at a loss to see how the media enforce any monopoly of opinion. There’s a great deal of diversity of opinion in the media, to start with, especially if you include alternative media. And people are very good at forming their own opinions. There’s never been a time when so many varied opinions are so easy to find.

    I think many of us, who are involved with art, have trouble understanding that when a show like American Idol makes such a great success, it’s because its audience really likes the show. Not because they don’t have access to alternatives. And the media’s celebration of shows like that isn’t simply a matter of forcing opinion into line. The media people themselves — because, after all, “the media” in practice is a group of fairly diverse people (I say that after years of working in the field) — like the show, and that’s a big reason why they promote it so much. Or they don’t like it, and they say so very clearly in what they put out.

  10. Sasha Hnatkovich says

    I listen to a lot of indie rock bands from Canada, esp. on labels Arts and Crafts, Last Gang and Constellation. They very often are supported by government funding. In fact, it’s rare to pick up a Canadian release that does NOT acknowledge government support. I can think of only one American band in my collection that received a grant (I think was from the NEA), Alec K Redfern and the Eyesores.

  11. leboyfriend says

    I can’t quite explain this but the moment I read the phrase “forge…the uncreated conscience of my race” I thought of the punk rock movement. I know really very little about that genre but have always supposed that is precisely what they sought to do.

    Very much so! They were very conscious of doing something new, and smashing the old. Volcanic in their force. There’s a huge, difficult, rewarding book about their larger long-term significance, Greil Marcus’s “Lipstick Traces.”

  12. says

    Although I realize that setting up straw-man arguments to further your cause is a regular practice of yours, you’ve gone one step too far in your misquoting of Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus and misuse of what he had to say; a misquoting that makes nonsense of Stephen’s statement. Your inserted ellipsis (“forge…the uncreated conscience of my race”) is a purposeful, pernicious, and, more to the point, tendentious falsification of Stephen’s statement which statement actually reads: “Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul [italics added for emphasis] the uncreated conscience of my race,” and is in NO way “grandiose” as a statement of intent, and in NO way a statement of what “[art’s] role in our world is.”

    But I don’t intend to argue against your, um, arguments here as it’s a pointless exercise. That we’re polarly opposed on the matter and have been since Day One is manifest to any reader of both our blogs and there’s no point rehashing old business. What I do want to do is express my annoyance, even anger, at the dishonesty and deceptiveness of the very statement of purpose of your blog. That statement reads that the blog is devoted to “the future of classical music” as if you were a champion of classical music and concerned about its future when from almost everything you write it’s manifestly clear you’re a champion not of classical music in particular and, by extension, the arts generally, but of pop music in particular and of pop culture generally.

    Well, there’s not a thing wrong or amiss with championing pop music in particular and pop culture generally. It’s a perfectly legitimate enterprise. What is very wrong and very much amiss is championing such things under the deceptive cover of championing their polar opposites.

    (And, please! Don’t come back at me with the imbecile and pernicious argument that the separation of the domains of pop culture and so-called high culture is merely a false, culturally and/or socially determined artificiality rather than something determined by the inherent properties of the artifacts of each. It’s nothing of the sort and never has been.)

    Perhaps your blog’s official statement of purpose needs some rethinking and rewording.



  13. ray says

    Eric, radiohead is simpleminded nonsense – you couldn’t “scratch the surface” of their inane material? I’ve forced myself to listen to some of their childish drivel and I was not impressed! Maybe alkan isn’t on the level of beethoven (most 19th century music isn’t) but at least his music has technical expertise – at least it strives to be great. Putting some drugged-out BS by led zeppelin ahead of him is an insult to a man who was an accomplished and PROFESSIONAL musician. Led zeppelin is “sublime?” Ha ha – no, its just LOUD, which it has to be. That way it creates a big wall of noise, something meant to conceal its lack of musical substance. Besides, its TEENAGE MUSIC – why are adult music academics wasting time on something so childish and silly? What, real greatness in art is too challenging, so you turn to crap instead? I’ll put beethoven’s missa solemnis up as an example – now you name a pop music production that even begins to approach it in terms of creativity, imagination, character, technical craftsmanship, and musical skill. You can’t, because pop music isn’t on that level and never will be. As pop music “evolves” it becomes increasingly rudimentary and primitive – no one with musical discernment can avoid noticing that. Whether you like it or not, there’s such a thing as GREATNESS in art, and classical music is where it can be found. As I said in another post, schubert’s ave maria leaves every pop song ever written in the dust.

  14. ray says

    Greg, pop music is music for TEENAGERS. Why is a middle-aged intellectual so anxious to champion something that’s targeted to adolescents? I don’t understand why this music even appeals to you. You know enough about classical music to be more sophisticated. I recall reading an interesting article by you about a series of schoenberg concerts – there you had worthwhile things to say about why schoenberg (my favorite composer at one time) hasn’t been accepted by listeners. I started following your blogs based on that article, which was insightful and perceptive – and now I find you defending high school music? Its dissapointing to say the least. Radiohead? REALLY!

  15. ray says

    Greg, you want classical music to “coexist” with pop music? It already does. What you really don’t want is for anyone to say classical music is superior – well, sorry, it is. Unless you think a bob dylan album is on the level of schubert’s song cycle “die winterreise,” I don’t see how you can disagree. With bob dylan the WORDS come first and the music remains on a rudimentary level (this is why it doesn’t interest me). With schubert the MUSIC is on a sublime level, enough to eclipse the words. Face it, schubert is better.

  16. ray says

    Greg, here’s a way to distinguish great art from useless second rate pop art – great art has the power to transcend its own time, to appeal to people centuries after its creation. Shakespeare, da vinci, michelangelo, josquin, bach, handel, haydn, mozart, beethoven, schubert, etc – this is great art, literature and music which continues to attract NEW admirers from one century to the next. Contrast that with pop culture which can’t outlive its own time. Watch a movie from 1940 and see how OUTDATED it is – the clothes, the cars, even the way people speak – time has passed it by. Its the same with music. Glenn miller, the andrews sisters- is there a large enthusiastic audience for their productions? Are new listeners drawn to them? Of course not, that music sounds OLD – the only people who like it now are people who liked it when they were young. Hearing it now brings back old memories. Its same with the beatles, the rolling stones, elvis, et al. Their only audience is aging baby boomers who liked their music when they were young. That’s the destiny of all pop music, to become obsolete and fade away! A sad spectacle sometimes occurs on PBS – an aging rock or r&b group comes out to reprise their “hits” – seeing older gray-haired men gyrating around doing high school dance moves is more than a little sad and pathetic, don’t you think? Again, time has passed them by.

  17. Dustin says

    Ray, I think you should calm down a little. “Face it, Schubert is better.” I think I must have been in kindergarten when the class went through a list of sentences, selecting the ones that were opinions. All you have done is put forth statements of your own opinions as the only truth. You denounce certain styles of music as only fit for “TEENAGERS,” which is certainly another opinion. When discussing something so subjective as music, you simply cannot defend any one viewpoint as gospel truth. That attitude alone would make anyone even vaguely interested in intellectual learning find your arguments distasteful from the start. You disparage movies from the 40s? I would think that a ‘classical’ music purist such as yourself would have the corresponding taste in film, and there are certainly many people who would write blog comments holding these same black and white films to be the only ones with real, lasting value. You say that a determining factor of ‘greatness’ in art is the art’s ability to remain vital and effective for centuries after its creation. Making this your main argument of that post reveals your tenuous grasp on logic, as this actually weakens your conclusion. You can check back here in 200 years to see how history views today’s ‘pop’ music, but until then you can’t say whether it meets the standards of greatness, at least the standards that you yourself decided. I feel slightly sorry for you reading these comments, not least of all because you apparently spend so much time dwelling on them, judging from the time-stamps. Do you sit around, creating unintelligent and unfounded criticism, listening to “Ave Maria” on infinite repeat, and writing “Beethoven is a great composer” over and over, page after page? Pretty sad.

  18. ray says

    Dustin, its easy to judge how pop music will be viewed 50 years from now – look how popular songs from the 1920s, 30s,40s and 50s are viewed today – they’re seen as antiquated and out of date. Only a SMALL number of devotees like them. And MOST people have little interest in old black and white films. I don’t have to just “listen” to ave maria when I can play my own organ arrangement of it. Also I’ve never “posted beethoven is a great composer over and over” – its you people who keep trying to put the drivel of radiohead and bjork up on a pedestal. You want to build pop music up by tearing classical music down. What’s wrong with just saying classical and popular music exist in different worlds which have little or nothing to do with each other? What’s wrong with saying classical music is on a higher level? It IS after all! Why is that such a problem for you? Pop music has a place – a LOWER place, just accept that! In bars and clubs it has a function – but that’s all. Real artistic greatness lies elsewhere. And of course popular music revolves around the anxieties and concerns of teenagers – since the 50s, it always has. And in america, the land of adults who never never never want to grow up, its only natural adults would gravitate to teenage entertainment – the average comic book reader in this country is an adult too.

    How much classical music do you really know and understand? I suspect not all that much – it seems pop music is your point of reference. Well, it isn’t mine – I’ve outgrown it.

    Well, Ray, I’d thought I wouldn’t debate you anymore. But let me offer one thought. Here I am, a cultivated classical musician, and I listen to pop with equal artistic enjoyment. As do many other people I know in the classical music world, not to mention the vast majority of my Juilliard students, plus students I’ve worked with at other music schools. Or the people I know in high-ranking positions at major orchestras, who love pop music, and don’t consider it artistically lower?

    How do you account for all of us? Do you think we’re all messed up in the head? Do we all have shallow taste? Do we all not really understand classical music, because if we did understand it, we couldn’t possibly like pop music as much as we do?

    I think you’d have a lot of trouble arguing that last point. You can assert it, if you like, but would you like to probe the depth of (for instance) my understanding of classical music? You’d be heading down a very slippery slope.

  19. Dustin says

    I’ve been a classical musician for almost 15 years, and have learned, analyzed and understood many pieces of music from different periods, spanning many genres. I’ve earned a college degree in music, as well as one in English. Throughout all of that time, I’ve never felt that pop music occupies a necessarily lower place than classical music, and I have a great respect for both. I’m certainly not trying to build pop music up by tearing classical music down. Saying that the two exist in different worlds, having nothing to do with each other, is simply false. Any reasonable musician would acknowledge that classical music has shaped pop music, and continues to do so. Artistic value certainly doesn’t belong solely to classical music. I was only trying to provide a response to your comments, which remain illogical.

  20. ray says

    Well, you have your opinion and I have mine. I’m in a club right now and pop music is being played – is it as good as classical? Of course not – its ok for this club, but that’s all. Just where do you see greatness in it? But this is typical of american attitudes towards the arts – just because you LIKE something doesn’t make it great art! I enjoy listening to new age music sometimes – it can be expressive and moving on occasion, but does that make it as good as a haydn quartet? NO! Just because I can enjoy it doesn’t make it great art. That’s how I feel about pop music – I don’t HATE it necessarily (even rap) – I just don’t see it as great music on the same level as classical, something that infuriates its devotees, it seems. But why should it? Would you compare the screenplay of a law and order svu episode with hamlet or macbeth? I’ll bet you wouldn’t – obviously shakespeare is better. Even the writers of the tv show would admit that. Why is it when it comes to music, some want to obliterate any distinctions between what’s great and what isn’t, reducing everything to the same level? That seems “illogical” to me.

  21. ray says

    I don’t think the average writer of movie screenplays or a tv series would presume to compare their work with shakespeare – they would know better! While what they do might be enjoyable and entertaining, shakespeare is on a higher level. Well, its the same with music – pop music can be enjoyable on its own terms, but classical music is on a higher level. I can’t believe some of you are classical musicians and you can’t see that. All the classical musicians I’ve known and worked with certainly could.