Thursday, October 06, 2011

I Know What You Did Last Summer and .....

.... don’t try to do it again!
by Claudio Botelho

"I Musici" 1595-1596 Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio 1571-1610) 

A long time ago, prior to the development of photographic cameras, painters strived to capture people and landscapes on their canvas. The more their works resembled reality, the more their paintings were valued. So, the world came to know some fantastic pictures, and giants like Caravaggio; Da Vinci; Michelangelo; Domenico Ghirlandaio; Hugo van der Goes; Giotto; Raphael; Ucello; Tintoretto; Tadeo Gaddi; Massaccio, etc., each one, in his own time, brought the outside world to the innards of castles, palaces, churches, cathedrals and, obviously, the properties of those who loved art and could afford having such masterpieces.
There were assortments of religious scenes, many of which resulting from the interpretation of the bible as done by each painter and these remain, to these days, untouched in their communication values, as they were the materialization of the imagination of each artist: no one knows if and how those painted representations occurred. The feeling of the painter and his spatial thinking were unique and, thought his skill, were transfigured into something tangible so others could share… Thus, this kind of visual impression remains and most probably will be the only one we’ll ever have, aside from the sterile world (by comparison) of graphic computing.
Concerning all others more “palpable” subjects, for quite some time now, entered Rolleyflexes, Hasselblads, Canons, Nikons et al, which, outdone all those artists by crude and truly exposing, on their canvas, the reality, no matter how complex, with perfect perspective, illumination, color and shade contrasts, just as they happen in nature.
Then, figurative art, as a handcrafted subject, had to reinvent itself and, so, came what could be generally called “abstractionism” which qualifies the result of the personal feelings of the painter added to his representation of reality: a kind of “jazzy”way to paint. From then on, came Picasso, Miró, Dali and a plethora of others which, through several grades of “distortions”, made it possible to classify their works accordingly. Thus, these artists were out of the reach of that competition and (most enticing) could not be ruled, for the simple reason there weren’t any to be followed. One could love an upside down painting, as much as could hate another positioned as intended by its author.
By this token, consensus would be much more difficult in qualifying any art work and, most certainly, other ingredients would count; some of them strange to the matter and others just intangible entities with their intrinsic difficulties to be explained to others.
It is now certainly easier to take a child work as something done by a master painter. Easier still, to transform a so-so artist into a grandmaster. In the past, nobody would take for granted an effort of someone just initiated in the art of painting for something Caravaggio would have done; unless if performed in his early art days…
The absolute absence of leading rules in this new form of expression; the nonexistence of guidelines to follow have, naturally, given birth to disparate judgments, as, likewise, there’s no path to be followed or, otherwise, unlimited ways to go. Thus, here, zero equals to infinite.
Can jazz be taken as so free an art as to follow no rules at all? Can it be done as just a vehicle to self fulfillment, irrespective of the judgment of its listeners? Is it acceptable to listen to a solo, in the middle of a performance, which has nothing to do with what came before, as happens so much? A kind of solo which could be transposed to any other song with the same (or lack of) effects?
In my opinion, we’ve been listening to so many “musical masturbations” from musicians who don’t even care to take a previous look at the charters before getting into action. The portability of certain music instruments makes it even easier…
A Jam session is a jam session; an instant art into that instant art called jazz: two or more colleagues meet and start playing and defying themselves… But, when you get into a studio to record something to be listened forever, you must think twice. Surely, I’m not the one to establish any limits whatsoever, but some limit must exist if the artist intends to communicate with his listeners.
His solo for “Laura”must have some connection with her. It may be as thin as he likes, but a certain linkage must exist. Otherwise, as I said before, one can take it from her and gracefully gives it to ”Maria”, or “Bess”, or “Delilah”, with no side effects.
The venerable Willis Conover, by the sixties, once said: “This is a program of American music; some partly planned; some partly spontaneous”. Of course he was speaking about jazz, when introducing a live presentation of a jazz group. Spontaneity taken to the infinite can be too much of a good thing. Even in jazz… One may feel faked and abandon the experience.
I’m not here, as I layman that I am, to proclaim abstractionists as art fakers, but don’t fool me: I know what you did yesterday with Laura. Please, don’t do the same thing with Delilah, today! Or else, you can teach us to listen!...

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