adventures in dysthymia

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Spotlight

Well, I went ahead and changed my account name and 'spotlight' shop name at Lulu to Arachis Press. Since I'll only be doing books there from now on, it seemed logical.

Now watch them bring out some great new different product and mess it all up!

Of course, the URL changed again: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/arachispress

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From time to time, I see videos posted on Face Book or wherever of virtuosic playing. Often, the performances are on out-of-the-ordinary instruments such as ukuleles or bodhrans; sometimes, the more typical guitars and basses and banjos and so on.

The first thought is: that's amazing. The second thought is: what's the point? It may indeed be amazing but it's rarely entertaining. An exhibit of skill only keeps ones attention for a brief time.

Unless, of course, the viewer is also someone interested in the craftsmanship of playing. But they're not concerned with the music nor the performance, per se.

It's all well to play well! I've nothing against that. But I'd rather see someone strum the ukulele to accompany an entertaining song than a note-perfect rendition of some tricky and intricate piece. That, to some degree and no matter how well it is done, veers into self-indulgence. It entertains only the person playing it.

Which is okay. But don't expect me to gush over it.

Complexity for its own sake is a dead end. Artist's have walked down that road and into obscurity, from the start. It's usually the death of an artistic style, as well. Look (or listen) to the intricate music of the Late Renaissance, the multi-voiced and quite undecipherable polyphonic madrigals that were being turned out in the 16th Century.

Then take a listen to the simpler yet more interesting and understandable compositions of the early Baroque. Gabrieli, for example. Or Monteverdi, who wrote great music in both eras.

And that's the thing: the music was just as good despite being less complex. The same happened as the Baroque wound down. It became more complex and ornate before giving way to a new and more forceful Classicism (which is really a part of the whole Romantic era but we won't go into that here. Ha, my background in Art History is showing.). And so on.

I did veer a little off my original point there but I think it's all related. Artists (and other folks for that matter) tend to get off message, caught up in a 'look what I can do' mentality. We don't care what you can do, really; just what you have to say.

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From the window, I can see my forty pounds of bounce, aka Tucky, herding imaginary sheep again. She runs as fast as she can in big circles out in the field. She does a good job of it just about every morning -- I don't think an invisible sheep has gone astray yet!

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