Showing posts from January 29, 2012

The So-Called Need to Fail

"You've Cott Mail" today is all about "the need to fail." I'm with Adam Thurman on this one: "I've had to learn (the hard way) that the only failures that move us forward are the ones where you prepare and execute to the best of your ability . . . and then things just don't work out." As a college professor, I occasionally am asked by a student, "What do I need to do to get a B in this class?" My answer is always the same: "Try to get an A an don't make it." I don't have much patience with anyone who shoots for mediocrity.

If what is meant is that it is necessary for artists (or anyone else, for crying out loud -- could we get over artistic exceptionalism, please?) to take risks in order to succeed, well, duh. It's not success to keep doing the same safe thing over and over. But failure is something that happens, not something that needs to happen. Sometimes basketball players miss their shots, but they don&…

Art in a Human Context

"It would be better if art were nameless, and that those of us who write about art in books and the reviews and newspapers, always clacking about art, or Art, or ART, were constrained somehow by good taste or a hickory club either to do art in its appropriate human context, and in doing be it, or keep still. For art suffers more than most activities in being withdrawn from the contexts of living. It is categorized as something special."
Baker Brownell, The Human Community, 1950 

"Modern art activity can provide a new birth and new creative directions of usefulness for such a community. As art activity is developed, the community is recreated The vital roots of every phase of life are touched As the community is awakened to its opportunity in the arts, it becomes a laboratory through which the vision of the region is reformulated and extended And as the small community discovers its role, as the small community generates freshness of aesthetic response across the changing …

On Maturing as an Artist

In a fascinating interview on Huffington Post, Natalie Merchant discusses motherhood, her album Leave Your Sleep, and her development as an artist. Among the many thoughtful things she has to say is this exchange (with emphasis added): 
You just announced some upcoming performances as a guest soloist at orchestral shows. Is this the next direction for you?I enjoy working with the wide variety of instruments the symphony provides, and the textures and the emotional resonance of those instruments. I'm trying to find a way to mature in this field called pop music, which really loathes the aging process and loves youth. I just feel like I don't want to do the same thing I did when 25 or 35. The songs have endurance and have retained a lot of validity. But I'm focusing on how to make the experience appropriate for the way I feel now, with new material.It's an awkward thing to talk about, but it's true: It's possible to be a musician, but you can't be a pop musici…