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Art Is…

This post was slightly inspired by this one, if you’d like to journey on my train of thought and read a piece with a similar idea, but, you know, more of an idea.

I write a lot of reviews. I have no idea if I’m good at it, but I certainly know that I write them. They’re almost entirely of film and TV, two mediums which go hand in hand and require a skillset that’s functionally identical to criticise.

I also like music. I listen to a lot of it, and it takes up broadly the same time in my life as film and TV. But if you asked me, say, why Of Monsters and Men are my favourite band, I’d probably just tell you that they’re good, and mumble something about consistency. I certainly couldn’t articulate it in any remotely eloquent way.

And if you’re wondering what the point of this post is, well… er… I’m wondering something. Not all art is the same, that much is clear. Each form serves a different function, is capable of something that no other medium can match. Music is purely audio. Paintings, or dance, are purely visual. Film and television are both. Books? They’re somewhere in between, or above.

But all art is, fundamentally, storytelling. The extent of that story, the specificity of it, and the way the audience engages, is different, but no matter the medium, there’s a basic story there, and there’s something subjective, and personal, that lies below the surface. Theoretically, therefore, if you’re able to grasp how that story’s being told, and whether that story accomplishes its aims, and what it means (and almost everyone is), that should carry across the board. Or at least within the boundaries of personal preference. I don’t like opera, so, obviously, I can’t engage with it critically.

And so we come back to music. Music is a remarkably diffuse form of art – it can be lyrical poetry (look at how Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature), a sonic earworm (look at, er… Ed Sheeran) or something bizarre, impressionistic, and so abstract that it seems to actively defy interpretation (hey, Alt-J!), but it recognisably takes from the toolbox of things I understand as an ‘English person’ and unhealthy TV addict.

But why do I like the music I like? That I cannot articulately explain.

So I guess my point in this weird, rambling post (if you got to the end of this, congrats! But, why?) is that art is something that you can never fully pin down. Art, to use a horrible cliche that I am definitely not above, makes you feel, and feelings aren’t built to be articulated in tight prose with strong usage of the Oxford comma. There are practically infinite ways of telling a story that no one person could ever hope to encapsulate in one mind. Any given person might never click with the fundamental appeal of an art form, or click with it without ever knowing quite why. Most importantly, art is much more than this paragraph, which is just the conclusion I, an innocent boy looking up at the stars or something, came to. After all, with art, the best we can do is to understand the tiniest corner of it, even if the patch right next to it remains entirely elusive.

That, I guess, is why I can’t review music. Art is hard, and reviewing is unnatural. That’s the moral of this piece. You can copy and paste that ending bit.

Apologies for the rambling, incoherent nature of this. This is my blog, and I get literally two pageviews max per post, so I figured that there’s no harm in freeform experimentation. I am accountable to no-one but WordPress, and truth be told, I doubt they’re watching.


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