The diminution of culture

Not everyone who writes ponylore is a lowbrow, or even a mediumbrow. This discussion has broken out at FIMFiction, and it’s interesting enough, I think, to bring over here. It begins with a difficult — in several senses of the word — piano piece by Brian Ferneyhough, and goes from there:

[I]f Ferneyhough is great, I don’t want to be that great.

The march to self-isolation always starts with great works by a great artist — Picasso, Stravinsky, T. S. Eliot, Miles Davis, Joyce. People imitate them, and try to take it further. Then it goes too far, and no one can admit it’s gone too far because by that time everybody in the elite power structure of that art has gone on record praising it.

Is this a uniquely 20th-century event? Has it happened before in history that the leaders of an entire art form deliberately isolated it from the masses? As far as I know, it hasn’t.

I pointed out that the leaders decide who gets the grant money, and this inevitably must affect the artists, few of whom are independently wealthy. But it seems to me that there’s probably something involved besides retention of face and/or grubbing of money.

1 comment

  1. Charles Pergiel »

    31 January 2014 · 2:48 pm

    The “elite power structure of art”. Now that is an interesting turn of phrase. I kind of suspected there was such a thing, though I would call it something like the “rich fashionistas of the art world”. I suppose there might be some ne’er do well hanger-oners who exert some influence on what gets purchased, but it’s the ones with the wallets who make the final determination.

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