Saturday, March 13, 2010

More musings about Art

My husband and I went to the symphony last night to hear Joshua Bell play the violin with the San Diego Symphony. Even I, visual more than aural in my understanding of the world, can hear the glory of the music he caresses from his violin. He can produce sounds that are so sweet they feel like honey, and a second later find sharp, raw chords. His music flows, it sweeps, it crushes. He seems to be one with the music, looking in it for the underlying essence, and whatever that is, he finds and sings with his instrument.

I was pondering what is the difference between a violinist like Joshua Bell and an excellent violinist like the other symphony musicians. Would he ever play in an orchestra, just one of the string section? No. His playing is art. It is different from those. They all play for love: they certainly don't do it for the big money; it isn't there. But he plays with some extra measure of love and attention. It's not just expertise. It is full oneness with the music.

I think all art is that way. All great artists are that way. They must have the skills; that is basic. But skill is not sufficient; they must be able to put their skills, their heart, their minds, everything wholly at the service of the music. Egos may be huge, but during the music, the ego must serve the art, not vice versa.

I write these things here because I think Seth was also such an artist. He put his whole self into whatever it was he was doing: his art certainly, but also whatever he had to do. Nothing was routine. Nothing was too small for attention. Everything became worthwhile in his hands.
I have said here before that I used to ask him to look for projects to work on that had more literary value. He said to me once in reply: "Think Verdi." I said, "Touche." Operas rarely have real literary worth until the music becomes part of them. But the music adds to the words in such a way that the whole becomes something of lasting value. In just that way, Seth's comic books may have been for fun, but his art lifts them out of the run of usual books, and makes them something more: art.

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