Sunday, February 11, 2007

Abridged Arts

"People had longer attention spans.... The works have been abridged to make it easy, more accessible for the TV generation."
Mikhail Baryshnikov

I clicked on a link tonight that asked how many were planning to watch the Grammy Awards. Welcoming the chance to say, "No, thank you, I have better things to do," I was pleasantly surprised that the majority of voters agreed.

I love music. I used to watch all of the music award shows years ago in order to get a chance to see some of my favorite singers and musicians. And then came the MTV/VH1/CMT generation where we could watch them anytime we decided. I did watch videos for a while. Rarely able to attend concerts, I used them as a substitute, having them on as often as my radio, or nearly. Now they are all over the internet. Is it any surprise award shows have lost their charm considering the availability of picking and choosing who we want to watch instead of whomever the powers to be decide to invite?

As a curiosity, I did click the link that told me who was nomimated for the top three awards. After wondering if I had the right list, I could see why so few are interested in watching. Has music declined that far? There was not one act I care to listen to on the radio, much less waste 3 hours of precious time seeing who comes out "ahead."

I posted this in my daily journal and another writer replied it's the same in the writing world. "Poets" who so apparently haven't studied the artistry and technique of poetry are publishing their works. Essays are nothing but rants without real thought other than fleeting anger. Journalists who have forgotten or never bothered to learn the concept of integrity of the written word abound in print and online. Where is the artistry in the arts?

I am an advocate of the indie arts. I'm an indie artist. The internet has become an incredible tool for those outside main genre publishing, in both music and writing. Readers and listeners now have many more choices than one of the niches that big companies pick up and put out there. Artists now have a free venue with which to promote themselves. It is a wonderful thing.

On the other hand, it has also given some a false sense of "art." The number of works being pushed out into public view without being ready is alarming. I receive many, many friend requests from indie bands on Myspace. I don't mind getting them, and I always go give them a listen. Many I add because they do have talent and I like their sound. Most now, I refuse, either because it isn't my style or because I flat-out can't fathom why someone told them they were ready to publish their music.

The same applies to writing. I can go to a writer's site or read their emails on a writing list and know they can't possibly be someone I want to read. Yet, they are promoting books they've published, likely without professional editing. Some writers can get away without professional editing, as long as they have someone else reading their work to find things a writer cannot see in her own work. Some are attuned to grammar and only need an extra eye and suggestions about the plot or characters. Some have incredible stories and a nice way with words and only need grammar assistance. Some have neither, and yet, because they "wrote a book," they decide it needs to be published.

Poetry books are being published without the "poet" realizing it takes more than rhyme and a certain number of lines to be actual poetry. There's an artistry missing that cannot be faked.

There is artistry missing in much of the arts.

In this TV generation, we are full of the glitz and glamour of things without bothering with quality. Our actors don't have to know how to act. They only have to know how to put on a show and flash their smiles. Our politicians don't have to be well-trained in how to command or lead. They have to be charming and look good on our screens. Our singers don't have to know about the intricacies of music. They have to be actors who can make those clueless about music vote for them. Our writers don't have to train themselves on the techniques of plot, characterization, climax, endings, sentence structure, or poetic use of words. They have to know how to create book trailers to catch attention with "book videos."

Of course there are exceptions. There are many indies doing glorious jobs and I love that they have the means to let their work be known. I only wish the artistry would come before the promotion instead of our arts becoming so abridged.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

stripped enough

"Dancers are stripped enough onstage. You don't have to know more about them than they've given you already."
Mikhail Baryshnikov

Is imitation really the sincerest form of flattery?

I can see how it is, in a way, but isn't being inspired by someone enough to want to be just as individually unique as that person even better?

I have many favorite authors, such as Marilynne Robinson, Hemingway, John Irving, John Jakes, and so on, but when someone asks who my work resembles, I'm at a loss. Nora Roberts comes to mind, but her characters aren't particularly deep. I appreciate the style of the "Johns" ;-) but mine isn't at all like theirs, other than being literary. Marilynne Robinson is someone I aspire to come close to approaching as far as the gorgeous, flowing, lyrical prose that seemlessly blends with her beautiful, flawed characters, but I don't attempt to imitate her style and never expect to have that nearly unattainable quality. She is a true inspiration, and managed to achieve it with her first novel after focusing so long on non-fiction.

Currently reading The Awakening by Kate Chopin, I can see why it's such a classic. The story is so true for so many and the writing is calm and easy. It doesn't have the depth of character that I insist on having in order to call it a favorite, and it's slow enough that it doesn't keep me pulled in except occasionally. That is, of course, a quirk of my own that I am so easily bored and distracted, and others wouldn't agree.

I do have to say I would be flattered if another writer even wanted to imitate my style, but I would rather they didn't. Is that vain? No, it's art. Learning from others is an incredible way to improve, just as the master painters once copied paintings of their predecessors. The ones who stood out, however, were those who took that training and used it to create their own style.
Many authors worry about "finding" their voice. *shrug* Why search for something already inside? It's there; let it flow naturally and that is your voice. It's unique, and that's your hook.
I missed last week's entry because I've been furiously working on marketing, to include revamping my website, adding a press kit for bookstores, and coming up with promotional ideas, including a brand new animated banner for fans to use on their myspace pages or elsewhere. There will also soon be freebies on my site.
One thing I am excited about is the addition of "A Conversation With A Musician" that is now up and running. The first interview is posted: Johnny Roxx. Johnny has been featured in several major music magazines. Check out his interview!

The plan is to have a new musician/band each month, all indies (although they may have been signed earlier), and to extend it to other types of indie artists. If you know an indie artist with an established record who would consent to an interview, let me know. I have several in mind, but will take suggestions.

Punxsutawney Phil didn't see his shadow, and I'm quite happy about that. On toward spring....