Makes me want to scream

I’m getting more and more of my news online these days and really enjoying the stimulation of being able to read the New York Times, L.A. Times, London Times, BBC headlines and Arts Journal daily. I just signed up last week to receive the London Times (known simply as The Times where I’m from) with a particular view to comparing their arts coverage with the NYT… and discovered something surprising.
The Times has no Arts section. Instead there is a category labeled Entertainment. And that made me stop and think a minute. Are the arts and entertainment really one and the same? Is the purpose of the arts merely to entertain? If so, no-one ever mentioned it to me before. I’ve grown up thinking that they are meant to uplift, provoke, stimulate, educate. Are we ‘entertained’ by Munch’s “The Scream”? Relaxed by Berg’s “Wozzeck”? Amused by Michelangelo’s “David”? No? Does that then mean that they do not merit discussion, not being strictly entertaining? The thought worries me.

As usual at times like this, I head for a dictionary– in this case,
the products of human creativity
works of aesthetic value
the creation of beautiful or significant things
skill that is attained by study, practice or observation
skill arising from the exercise of intuitive faculties

Something that amuses, pleases, or diverts, especially a performance or show.

Which would you prefer to focus on? Should you have to choose? Are we as a society heading away from the arts and towards entertainment? Does it matter to you?

2 Responses to “Makes me want to scream”

  1. Valerie opens the door of a serious controversy – what is happening to art and culture?

    In the wave of conservative thinking (or non-thinking, as is more often the case) sweeping the globe these days, art is generally pushed aside. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in the United States. Simply take a look at the first educational programs that are cut whenever there is a budget crisis: art, music, theatre, and foreign languages – in other words, all of the disciplines by which a people may define their culture, and therefore, themselves.

    But this is the whole point of neo-conservative thinking – to strip away any sense of identity or dignity from the common person, and, in so doing, make them easier to control.

    A big part of the conservative-controlled-media agenda is to offer a very narrow range of cultural products; hence, we see the proliferation of reality television, merchandisable films, and “made” musicians. Even the daily news, once a source of information, is now seen and sold as yet another form of entertainment. After all, what else are we supposed to expect from a local station that touts itself as “action news”?

    Or, to extend Valerie’s argument a bit further, professional sports are marketed to us as entertainment; does this mean that sports are “art” as well?

    Historically speaking, we have always had a blurry line separating craft works, from simple diversions (entertainment), and serious art. Certainly, someone who practices a craft can excel in that field to the point where the work becomes art. Similarly, sometimes we are entertained by high art, and some entertainment is also art.

    This is far different, however, from suggesting, as the Times seems to, that no difference exists between these different genres. Why strive for anything beyond checkers for diversion? Why expect anything other than a pie in the face for entertainment? Why have any songs other than “old MacDonald?” Certainly, in some sense, all of these things are entertaining?

    But, even the most Neanderthal-like sports fans, if pressed, will have to concede that fashion design (in the uniforms), aesthetic design (in the colour choices), theatrical design (in the lighting and live presentation), and incidental music all work together to enhance their sporting experience.

    I once asked a group of students which was more important: music or sports? They instantly, without thinking, responded that sports, of course, was more important.

    Then I asked them how much time had passed since they watched or participated in a sporting event. Most of them said at least a week or two.

    Then I asked them how much time had passed since they listened to a CD.

    As the realization dawned on each of them, that most of them had listened to a CD within the last hour, and they began to realize how much more music was a part of their everyday lives that some useless sporting event would ever be, they sat in a rather confused silence.

    If only we could make everyone see the value of art, and how it affects each of us every day, we might also be able to get the rest of our priorities straight as well.

  2. I have often contemplated the real difference between so-called ‘art’ music and ‘entertainment’ music and where the dividing line, if any, actually lay. I heard on the radio one day a rather wonderful definition (pity I did not catch the author) which has since become my yard stick on such a matter. I quote “Art is the dream of the individual. Entertainment is the dream of the people”. So when I struggle with my internal values on why and whom do I write music for, I can rest assured that when I write a jingle or piece of light music, it is created with the many in mind, but when I create ‘Art’ it is a process of revealing my own dreams to myself.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>