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Greater goal than art?

August 23rd, 2003 · 1 Comment

Shaun Groves , “pop” recording artist, gave an interview where he said “there is no art in pop music…(quote continued below)

…What I strive to do, is create enough art, that it doesn’t get in the way of communication. You can have so much art that no one really listens to it. I had a composition teacher who had me write all these pandiatonic, atonal, weird string concertos, with seven saxophones in the background — all this weird, weird mess. And I wrote it, and I abided by all the rules of 20th Century music, and it was really “out there.” But in the end, he criticized me for wanting to write pop music, because he didn’t think it was art. I said to him, “I have a greater goal than art. My goal is communication.”

Why does Groves need to make a choice between communication and art? Essentially he is saying that art doesn’t communicate – he even says it gets in the way of communication.

But what fascinated me most about NPR’s report on a new recording of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7, is that the piece of music was “an anthem of Soviet resistance” sent out secretly via Iran and performed by orchestras around the world. Art does communicate. Art is communication.

Today, though, if someone wanted to write an anthem of resistance, an expression of protest or anger, would this artist write a symphony? No, most probably a pop song or a film: these are the art forms that currently communicate most powerfully through our entire Western – dare I say world-wide? – culture.

I don’t think it is true that art doesn’t communicate. Or that artists necessarily should need to choose between art and communication. I think it is that we, as a culture, are illiterate. And our illiteracy has limited our art. It has restricted what gets recorded – like Shaun Groves’ seven saxophone concerto. If we could “speak music”, as an entirely educated culture, then we wouldn’t be limited to pidgin pop.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Shaun Groves // Jul 4, 2004 at 12:14 pm

    I agree. Art can communicate ina culture that speaks the language of art. America’s does not. That was my point. But since I was speaking to a Christian Music journalist and his audience I didnt’ do into the ethnomusicology and history of art as communication. i didn’t try to explain to him or his readers what role art, music specifically, once played in Western society and still does in others’.

    So in a Brittany Spears culture we “artists” who also wish to communicate do have to choose which is more important to us. Neither choice is wrong. But I choose communication which means I choose pop music instead of concertos. That’s the way to get the message out to the masses of college students I serve through music/communication. To choose the other, for me, would be choosing to serve myself – my elitist view of more intelligent art and view of pop culture as retarded – instead of choosing to submit my likes and druthers to the needs of the masses. they need what I’m communicating and I won’t choose a less effective manner of communication to satisfy my wants for a more elevated and intellectually pleasing vessel in art music.

    Good thoughts. Pleasure reading.