19 June 2014

A composer's moment of media glory

The episode illustrates how it is the artist who already has a name, who perforce gets all the attention.

And here, the artist is lapping up the attention. It is part of the circus that he protests against a supposed injustice (in this case, with unseemly overtones), but of hundreds of worthy artists in this country, he is the one at the mic and on camera.

Catastrophe, and a victim! Yes, the artist tells the world (and what a privilege that is) that a wave of public opinion questioning his artistic decisions is a catastrophe, and that he is the victim. That his work is the victim.

The central event of the work is the brutal murder (a genuine catastrophe, and in living memory) of a man (an actual victim) who went on vacation with his wife. However, the conceit of the work is, Hey, let's not rush to judgment! Let's consider the facts.  The title of the work, though, conveys a meaning.  The title is free of any hint of terrorism, of murder, of catastrophe, of a victim. Now, I'm not saying the title must do this thing, or that thing, or anything in particular. But the meaning of a title which the artist has designated is open to discussion.  There would be apt intellectual opposition, if instead of The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson had named his film Christ Spends an Hour in the Garden.

So the beginning, it may be, of questioning this artist's artistic decisions, is the matter of the title. The victim (the man who never returned from his vacation, I mean, not the artist at his press conferences) is not a victim, in the title. In the title, all monosyllables save for the victim's name, he did not experience murder, or terrorism, or fear, or violence (any of which, incidentally, would make for smashing opera).

No. All he experienced was Death.

Well, it is not rushing to judgment to observe that the chap didn't die in his sleep. So the title (whatever else may be said) sanitizes a terrorist murder, by eliminating even the suggestion of an agent.

The artist is too shrewd a fellow, that I should suggest that he misses this point. No, he shrewdly evades it, in his protests that his work is being unjustly victimized as anti-semitic.

He is indeed a shrewd publicist to the last. And as this week shows, it's all about publicity.


Cato said...

Precisely! "Too clever by half" comes to mind for our Minimalist composer: I have always found the work too accepting of the rationalizations of the terrorists about the legitimacy of their dirty work.

Karl Henning said...

And a conductor friend observes, "I didn't think much of the music, anyway."