Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Frame Down

If 4' 33" adds a frame where none had been, the widely remarked-on Joshua Bell stunt does the converse. Take the Bach Chaconne out of the museum and plunk it down in the subway at rush hour, and it turns out that many people don't recognize it as Great Art — or have too many other things on their mind to react to it with the kind of pious reverence some might expect.

I'm not sure why this comes as such a surprise to so many people. As Cage understood and demonstrated, the presence of the gilt frame is not value-free; it fundamentally changes, even defines, our experience of art.

The writer does uncover some fascinating variations among the responses to Bell the busker, and I'm not wholly out of sympathy with the exercise. But he lost me early, with this bit of transparent phoniness:
These were masterpieces that have endured for centuries on their brilliance alone, soaring music befitting the grandeur of cathedrals and concert halls.

Oh please. Next time around, let's put a priest in the metro station elevating the Host, and see how many commuters stop to take communion.


At 4/11/2007 7:08 PM, Blogger Alex Ross said...

Josh, I was there and I totally agree with you. Aimard said during his "performance" that 4'33" had become an "clichéd effect" or "overfamiliar" or some such phraseology. Maybe there are concert halls in Europe where the piece is played all the time but that's certainly not the case here. No piece is more talked about and less often performed. Aimard's presentation was condescending rubbish, and the whole second half of the program was, despite the brilliant playing, a tiresome recitation from the Gospel According to St. Boulez.

At 4/11/2007 10:04 PM, Blogger Alex Ross said...

Oops, I commented on the wrong post. This was meant for the post below. I was not there at Bell's legendary L'Enfant Plaza debut.


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