Sep 8, 2006

Purpose-of-Art Quotes

From Bob Christgau's 1991 review of R.E.M.'s Out of Time:
And though in theory it's true that I would have preferred something that spoke more directly to how shitty I feel about Iraq, in fact this is one of those alternate worlds that music is supposed to create for us—one of those worlds that makes peace worth fighting for. If I hear a better American album all year, I promise to stop wondering what it would be like to live in New Zealand.

From a Slate round-up of luminaries asked what piece of art has helped them "make sense of 9/11," I was struck by author George Saunders' thoughts:
I can't say that anything has helped me make sense of the attacks. I suspect they were just what they felt like they were—namely, a reminder that chaos and hatred sometimes rear their heads and, temporarily, are ascendant. But one work of art that has helped me in a more general way is John Adams' symphonic work "On the Transmigration of Souls"; it has "helped" me in the sense that I've been able to use it, periodically and sacramentally, to move myself to tears remembering that day just as it was. Every time I listen to it, it re-attunes me to the real sadness of that day, the sense of ordinary lives suddenly and horribly interrupted. That, I'd say, is the real purpose of art: to sweep away the mold that conceptual and habitual thought allows to grow over even the most raw experience. And Adams does it—it's a great and courageous piece of music.

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