27 Aug 2012

Music breathes: we will survive as long as art is still playful and imaginable

We Will Survive: Igudesman & Joo with Kremer & Kremerata

8 to 88 Musical Education for Children of All Ages

I honestly believe that it is a sin for a person not knowing about Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive, or whatever versions that came afterwards. A sin not because of the violation of any established religious doctrines or cliched morality, but one marking a person's ignorance of contemporary culture and vain existence in this world. I do not know since when this song has become a theme song for gay culture, but I guess, other than the meanings of the lyric, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) must have been one of the major factors.

Can pop music be married with classical music, or classical music with pop music? Many would be shocked when they hear this because they are such distinct forms of music. Supporters of classical music would be likely to object that it is not art anymore for art should be sublime, while the drifters in pop culture would contend that the seriousness and rigidity of classical music only kills the vitality in pop music. However reasonable one argues against their unity through big theories, the truth is the baby of this marriage can be amazingly intriguing, as you see in the work of Igudesman & Joo, a collaboration of two musicians who endeavour to bring classical music closer to all. Music in their hands is turned into a hilarious but unique theatrical show. Their playfulness rejuvenates the old and distant classical music, and their superb technique tears away the vulgar face of pop culture. Who would have guessed that the violin can be such a perfect instrument to interpret the deep emotions in I Will Survive, and who would not be cheered by the new variations of classical music juxtaposed with the pop music? This could not be achieve without the musicians great and bold imagination. The ensemble is playful and cheerful, and the music flows smoothly into the heart of its listeners, whose lighthearted reaction in return not only breaks the barrier between the stage and the auditorium, but also releases classical music from its heavy burden.

Is not such a cheerful communication the objective of art? Is not playful a crucial meaning of art? Is not spiritual content a function of art? Is not making everyone know more about everything by bringing them together to see and to feel the social function of art?

The ensemble seems like a spectacle, and it is a spectacle indeed. But this spectacle is no longer a simulacrum as Baudrillard criticizes because, instead of projecting something null and empty, this spectacle reintroduces classical music to its viewers through re-familiarizing them with pop music. Neither is the juxtaposition in this spectacle a pastiche in Jameson's view, since the superb technique successfully combines each element into a harmonious totality in which a new representation is constructed to eschew a dull nostalgia. This new representation is playfulness that shows what the presence is, or borrowing Derrida's term, the "autopresentation" of "pure sensibility." Sensibility comes only with the ability to imagine and feel. Although this sensibility has long been a debatable question in discussions of art, it cannot be denied that art is all about feeling -- be it yours, the artist's, or the critic's. It is feeling that brings art, and music is the most wonderful vehicle for the expression of feelings.

Indeed, as the musicians say: "music breathes." It is alive and so pop and classical music starts this beautiful dialogue. As long as one is willing to open their heart to listen to this fun dialogue, one would finally realize that art is not just about sublime. Art must be playful, cheerful, and imaginable.

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