Art doesn’t have to be true to life to be good, but when a work of art is true to your life, it strikes a special chord. On occasion music has this effect on me: I can think of any number of pieces that appear to embody my feelings about the world so precisely that I feel as though I might have written them. Much of Aaron Copland’s music has that effect on me, as does the streetlights-at-dusk melancholy of “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” Mingus’ elegy for Lester Young.
My guess is that most people are more likely to respond in this way to works of art that make use of words, and in particular to movies, which at their best are capable of creating an impression of reality so total as to be overwhelming. For my part, though, I haven’t seen many movies that seemed true in any significant way to my personal experience. Only three spring to mind, and two of them, not surprisingly, are about music….
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