Friday, November 7, 2014

Art and music, music and art

Christian Marclay
22" x 7", oil on wood, 2014
Five categories are distinguished when comparing artists and musicians:

1. The avant-garde artist. From Luigi Russolo, John Cage, Laurie Anderson, to Christian Marclay, these artists blur the distinction between the two media. Art is music, music is art.
2. The artist who also plays in a band: Walter Dahn, Sadie Bennett, Mike Kelley, and others. The history of this category goes back to the post-punk (the D.I.Y.) era. The graphics (and videos) for these bands are considered fine art.
3. The musician who becomes an artist (mostly painters): Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Captain Beefheart, and many more. Musicians who become “Big” have a certain responsibility in culture as a whole. To be taken seriously as a bonafide cultural torch bearer many musicians expand their activities into the field of the arts. This presumes a higher standard on the hierarchy scale of culture. The latest to come through in this respect are Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg. The description doesn’t quite do justice to the initial three examples whose paintings are reproduced on some of their album sleeves). It should mentioned too that the composer early 20th century composer Arnold Schoenberg was also a painter and that important writers such as Goethe and Strindberg produced significant experimental works of visual art.
4. Bands with a background in art schools (especially in Britain): The Beatles, Stones, Who, DEVO, etc.
5. Many artists have an affinity with certain music and musicians. They end up producing visuals for them. I’m thinking here of Andy Warhol mainly, but artists like Raymond Pettibon and Mike Kelley come to mind too. The English anarcho-punk band Crass considered visual artist Lee Vaucher a band member.

Then there are songs about art, but maybe not as many as you would expect. Even though there is a clear affiliation between contemporary art and (rock) music, most band shun the topic in their lyrics. The songs there are about contemporary art are almost without exception songs full of anxiety (and full of cliches too).
1. Art Brut: Modern Art
2. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Art Star

Songs about famous paintings.
1. Mona Lisa
2. Don McClean: Starry Night

Songs about famous artists.
1. Jonathan Richman: Pablo Picasso
2. David Bowie: Andy Warhol

Songs about being an artist.
1. Michael Hurley: I Paint a Design
2. Terry Allen: The Waitress

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