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America's 'Only Real Art'

September 14, 1985

I was quite amused Fleming's article. It was a satire, right? Farce? He is serious?

Fleming, I believe, has gotten his story turned around. Artists have not forsaken society, it is society that has forsaken artists.

American society tends to look askew at those who follow the arts. An artist must take on the personality of an underground fugitive. It is no wonder some choose to ignore the audience; in a sense the audience has ignored the artist. Or on the opposite end and of the spectrum, if a person attends operas, society tends to label them as rich and snobbish. I may be snobbish about opera, but when opera is performed in Los Angeles I dream of sitting in the good seats. If college students can only recite lyrics from pop songs it is not from disdain of poetry but lack of exposure to modern poetry. Students should be exposed to modern culture at school and, dare I say, at home.

Popular culture is not the stuff of which a lasting society is based upon. It may express the currents and feelings of the day, but it is "highbrow" art that will preserve society through the ages.

Using the example of Bach, as raised by Fleming, will do. Bach was not revered when alive, and soon was forgotten by most when gone. He did not become the universal figure he is until 100 years after his death when he was discovered by Mendelssohn and Schumann.

Bach is a tribute to German culture and the German courts who employed him. Indeed, it could be said that Bach was a government employee receiving direct subsidies from the state. Is there any popular musician from the same time in German history who is as revered as Bach and who made such a lasting contribution to society?

Fleming is wrong to assert that popular culture should be preserved and that "highbrow" culture should be abandoned. The arts go in cycles, and though some artists ignore the audience this will not last forever. Fleming misses the point: In "highbrow" culture the great works are created by those who are given by God a greater vision, and it is up to society to try to catch up to those visions.


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