Monday, September 24, 2012
Pop or Not
I came across an article in the New Yorker that I found rather pertinent to our class discussions. The article, by Peter Schjeldahl, is entitled Going Pop and refers to the current exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Andy Warhol and the influence he has had over the next generations of artists. Schjeldahl talks of Warhol’s legacy as the “reduction of art’s once sacred aura to a cult of the obvious.” I couldn’t help but think back to Levine’s Highbrow, Lowbrow, and think that music is not so different from any other art form. It is fascinating when an artist emerges into the world because he has heralded in a new era, a new way to look at things or has pushed beyond the boundaries of his time, because it is often because of these artists that we begin to ask ourselves questions and are no longer satisfied with the status quo. Levine talked about the ever-growing gap between high music and what the masses wanted. Warhol helped to break down these gaps. He presaged the collapse of “elite culture into mass culture, of creativity into commerce, and, with a metaphysical shudder, of reality into appearances of reality.” His famous Campbell’s soup cans broke down the barriers and most importantly made everyone think about what is “high” art and what is “pop” art. The similarities between Warhol’s own life path and that of classical music are numerous, and the paradoxes are still present in both realms. For instance, the exhibit at the Met includes the works of sixty artists who were strongly influenced by Warhol, yet these artists are all “museum-certified,” says Scjedldahl. It seems to me that “museum-certified” means that these sixty artists are not only famous in their own right, but also that they qualify to belong to “high” art, which of course, undermines the purpose of Warhol’s work. Interestingly, however, if Warhol had not made it into the Met, then the cultural elite would never have been faced with the question of elite art versus pop art. We can draw similarities from this in music, of course, as we have seen over the last few weeks, but the most important thing to remember is that music does not stand alone, visual art does not stand alone, and neither does social history. To me, it is crucial to the development of music that it remain anchored in the flow of history and cultural waves so that it may always be pertinent to our world.