My Criteria For Art

What is my criteria for art? I've isolated the major factors I look for as follows:

1. Expressed Emotional Conviction

Whether the artist is "acting" (such as performing theatrically) or invested in the material on a personal basis, I prefer it is expressed with a high degree of emotional conviction.

I also want to stress that by "emotional" I am referring to any emotion or emotions. Whether the expression is angry or cheerful or depressed or enthusiastic or spiritual or grieving or mysterious, suspenseful or violent, I am referring to any of these emotional experiences or any others, as well as combinations thereof. I am interested in experiencing all different kinds of emotional content, and am interested in it to the degree that it is being expressed with conviction, or even further, extraordinary degrees of conviction.

Some masterful examples of "Expressed Emotional Conviction":

Symphony No. 9 in D Minor "Choral" - Beethoven (1824)
Symphony No. 5 in C Minor - Beethoven (1808)
Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor "Appassionata" - Beethoven (1807)
In the Aeroplane Over The Sea - Neutral Milk Hotel (1998)
The Doors - The Doors (1967)
Astral Weeks - Van Morrison (1968)
The Black Saint & The Sinner Lady - Charles Mingus (1963)
A Love Supreme - John Coltrane (1964)
Ascension - John Coltrane (1965)
Metropolis - Lang (1927)
The Passion of Joan of Arc - Dreyer (1927)
The Godfather - Coppola (1972)
Sistine Chapel (Ceiling & The Last Judgement) - Michelangelo Buonarroti (1541)
Guernica - Pablo Picasso (1937)
Fall of the Damned - Peter Paul Rubens (1620)

Anyone could say these are either good or bad works of art but who could truly argue against these displaying a high degree of "expressed emotional conviction" from their respective artists?

2. Ingenuity

By ingenuity I mean, ideally, "an expression that took singular intelligence to conceive". There are reasons why there isn't another Beethoven waiting in line to write a symphony, or another Orson Welles directing films, or another John Coltrane playing the saxophone, or another Michelangelo preparing to paint the next "Sistine Chapel". These are each artists that truly embodied singular visions of their respective arts and are virtually inimitable. I also want to acknowledge that, to greater or lesser degree, each and every artist could be considered "singular", as there are no two that are exactly alike. So one could say that any intelligent artist easily falls under my definition above. This is technically true, however, I am looking primarily for the most extraordinary, most singular and impressive examples. An example of what I don't mean is that even though it may be a "unique achievement" to record an elephant's fart, I would not care at all if this was done even if it had no historical precedent. Because it clearly does not take much ingenuity to do so (perhaps just some patience and bravery!)

Some masterful examples of "Ingenuity":

Symphony No. 9 in D Minor "Choral" - Beethoven (1824)
Rite of Spring - Stravinsky (1913)
Symphonie Fantastique - Berlioz (1830)
Trout Mask Replica - Captain Beefheart (1969)
The Velvet Underground & Nico - The Velvet Underground (1967)
Highway 61 Revisited - Bob Dylan (1965)
Escalator Over The Hill - Carla Bley (1971)
Bitches Brew - Miles Davis (1969)
Free Jazz - Ornette Coleman (1960)
Citizen Kane - Welles (1941)
Persona - Bergman (1966)
2001: A Space Odyssey - Kubrick (1968)
Sistine Chapel (Ceiling & The Last Judgement) - Michelangelo Buonarroti (1541)
The Garden of Earthly Delights - Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1500)
Metamorphose de Narcisse - Salvador Dali (1937)

Anyone could say these are either good or bad works of art but who could truly argue against these displaying a high degree of "ingenuity" from their respective artists?

Combined, what do "Expressed Emotional Conviction" and "Ingenuity" equal? In a word, depth.

When I assimilate a work of art that is high on expressed emotional conviction but low on ingenuity, I may find it to be exciting or exhilarating upon my first, or first few, experiences with it, but it is unlikely to stay with me very long after that. It would likely decline in significance (or wouldn't be considered extraordinary to begin with) upon repeat experiences. Similarly, a work of art that is high on ingenuity but low on expressed emotional conviction would also be unlikely to hold much depth for me over the long term.

Another interesting point is that each factor seems to be dependent upon one another to reach its highest states. For me, a work of art can only be so emotional without a certain degree of ingenuity involved. Similarly, a work of art can only have so much ingenuity before an extraordinary emotional investment and conviction starts becoming evident from the artist. How much awe and wonder and other strong emotional reactions do the most singular works of art across history still inspire?

ALL the choices on my lists are a representation of is my opinion of #1 (Expressed Emotional Conviction) and #2 (Ingenuity) in greater and greater collaboration. The higher the rating/ranking, the greater the collaboration of these two factors. As a byproduct of this, one tends to experience greater degrees of conceptual weight (though technically, from the artist's point-of-view, the concept came first, before the creation/expression of it; from the audiences' point-of-view the expression is first, and the concept is a simultaneous, or perhaps slightly secondary, phenomenon).

Taking those above two overriding factors into full account as the major prerequisites in my criteria, a reliable formula for my ratings and rankings could be as follows:

Accumulation of the degree and consistency of expressed emotional content and ingenuity within the time frame or space of the work of art.

The differences in rating and ranking are determined by a precise attempt at measuring the degree of amazement or awe inspired from the experience of the whole work while it is being assimilated. Experiences do tend to differentiate -- even if slightly -- from one to the next, so the rating is an attempt to determine as precisely as possible the sustained peak of its experience. Therefore, I will tend to assimilate a work several times (particularly in the higher ratings) before I really settle in to a more "permanent" rating and ranking for it. Of course, even then, these are subject to change, but usually I can sooner or later come to terms with a very close estimation of its sustained value within my criteria and in relation to other works of art. After that, there are still variances with that work, from one experience to the next, but in most cases they are so minute that the rating usually doesn't change much, if at all.

My Ratings Scale:

5.0 - AVERAGE/MEDIOCRE

5.5 - ABOVE AVERAGE/MEDIOCRE

6.0 - GOOD

6.5 - WELL ABOVE AVERAGE

7.0 - VERY GOOD/EXCELLENT

7.5 - EXTRAORDINARY ... At 7.3+ the experience becomes extraordinary, and will begin to stand out as a historically significant work in relation to my criteria.

Definitions of extraordinary being applied: "Highly exceptional; remarkable" and "Beyond what is usual, ordinary, regular, or established." --Dictionary.com / The Free Dictionary.com

8.0 - AMAZING ... At 7.8+ the experience will be thoroughly extraordinary and the work starts increasingly representing a truly amazing experience historically and in relation to my criteria.

Definition of amazing being applied: "To affect with great wonder; astonish." --The Free Dictionary.com

8.5 - AWE-INSPIRING ... At 8.3+, the experience will be thoroughly amazing and the work starts increasingly representing a truly awe-inspiring experience historically and in relation to my criteria.

Definition of awe-inspiring being applied: "an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like." --Dictionary.com

9.0 - ALL TIME MASTERPIECE ... At 8.8+, the experience will be thoroughly awe-inspiring and the work starts increasingly representing a towering masterpiece historically and in relation to my criteria. These works will tend to be the most historically singular, powerful and compelling expressions of their particular genre or confluence of genres.

9.5 - SUPREME MASTERPIECE ... At 9.3+ the experience seems like an impossible achievement. An achievement so astonishing that, regardless of the type of emotional and thematic content, it inspires awe comparable to a life-changing religious experience, and does so in a manner so singular and exceptional that it will tend to completely revolutionize one's concept of what a work of art can express.

10 - IMPOSSIBLE?

Author Comments: 

Open for discussion, questions, etc.

I find it hard to disagree with your criteria, which to me says that a movie should be 1) sincere and 2) good. I would say those are roughly my own qualifications for great art as well. The only complaint I have is that you make no room for your personal responses to art. Now this may just be an introvert's lament, but I would think everyone has their own individual tastes and this naturally has an impact on what movies they like more than others. Scaruffi for instance, while arguably being the best Rock critic ever, has massive bias against certain kind of music, and he seems to often hide this behind a supposed wall of objectivity. He seems to have no time for pop music in general (for instance, which is why Christgau is the ying to his yang), anything mainstream is out, if it's mainstream pop - NOPE, not gunna happen baby; despite that being an extremely rich tradition with lots of brilliant song writers working in it! So I just want to know, do you think a person's personal perspective clouds their ability to recognize objective quality, and do you think this is something that happens to yourself? I don't mean to project or anything, but for me it's definitely a problem in being objective, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't think many others have that problem as well :O).

This is a thoughtful response, and without venereal disease, so I'm not afraid to touch upon what you've said (if Parable/Parablesque ever reads this, that was my "Pun O' The Day!" for Jan 26 2011!!!)...

The only complaint I have is that you make no room for your personal responses to art.

But that's the thing: those 2 factors define my personal responses to art. They are what I most want to experience in a work of art (music, film, etc). My lists really are the order in which I like them (or more like, "unwaveringly love" them). I make no differentiation between "best" and "favorite". They're the same thing.

Scaruffi for instance, while arguably being the best Rock critic ever, has massive bias against certain kind of music, and he seems to often hide this behind a supposed wall of objectivity. He seems to have no time for pop music in general (for instance, which is why Christgau is the ying to his yang), anything mainstream is out, if it's mainstream pop - NOPE, not gunna happen baby; despite that being an extremely rich tradition with lots of brilliant song writers working in it!

While what your saying has some solid ground, I think you may be slightly off in your assessment. I can't truly speak for Scaruffi but I can say that my own viewpoint is as follows: the genre doesn't make a difference to me. It's just those two factors above that matter: expressed emotional conviction & ingenuity. If Mariah Carey or Celine Dion, or anybody else, made an album that held those two standards than I'd love it sincerely. It just so happens that certain musics such as country, rap and pop don't have too many albums where this is that evident. I don't have any pre-supposed vendetta against these genres at all - if any one of them started spitting out masterpieces in the vein of my standards above, I'd love 'em. I'm sure it could be done, but I think in pop it would take an incredible vocalist to pull off - and I admit that true ingenuity within the pop format is quite a feat - but it's there to be done: ideas are potentially infinite. I think if one combined all of the following Beatles songs and some Neutral Milk Hotel onto one album, sequenced such as: Tomorrow Never Knows, I Am The Walrus, Strawberry Fields Forever, Across The Universe, Two-Headed Boy Pt. 1, Oh Comely, Holland 1945, Two Headed Boy Pt. 2, A Day in the Life, Revolution 9, you'd have something approaching a masterpiece and it could still be considered a pop/rock album. Different albums in Rap contain aspects of a masterpiece (such as Eminem, Beastie Boys (Paul's Boutique), Public Enemy, Clouddead) and I think if the strongest elements of each of these were combined into one work you could probably have something at or near the level of The Vampire Rodents' Lullaby Land while still falling under the genre of "Rap/Hip Hop" music. With country, I dunno - The Rolling Stones + The Band + Gun Club, or something.

So I just want to know, do you think a person's personal perspective clouds their ability to recognize objective quality, and do you think this is something that happens to yourself? I don't mean to project or anything, but for me it's definitely a problem in being objective, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't think many others have that problem as well :O).

The truth is I rank what I rank only when it hits a certain level for me on a personal level. BUT if I can tell that a film or album has those qualities but I'm just not 'getting it yet', I will definitely use that as impetus to continue listening to it or watching it until I do - and if it's there, I will always develop a personal love for it sooner or later (but usually right away, especially these days), simply because that is my ideal. But that's just me, that's not "objective" - those are my ideals, and apparently they're pretty darn close to Scaruffi's ideals as well. The reason I found Scaruffi in the first place was because I was looking for a rock music list which followed my ideals for all the greats in classical music I'd long since fallen in love with, and then I stumbled upon him via a link from one of lukeprog's pages on listology, tried Desertshore and Third, and couldn't believe there were other rock albums on the order of Beethoven, etc, besides Astral Weeks and a few others.

Would you say you're an essentialist?

I dont know, I think I have all sorts of different views on different subjects and I probably can't be defined by any one "ism".

I don't really want to go further than this as it's not really a subject I have time to get into much of a conversation about presently -- it's too time consuming -- I generally jump on and off listology to post things here and there from day-to-day. Perhaps one day I'll thoroughly define and post my views on life in general but the last time I said anything along these lines it turned into an impossibly long-winded conversation/argument within a small group of users here that never amounted to anything constructive -- these days I'm a different person and I'd approach it totally differently than I did then though...

I'll reply here so as not to rudely cut off our conversation, though I admit I am a little uncertain how the discussion took the trajectory it did. As far as I was concerned your personal criteria was never under question; rather, I was responding to the dialog opened by georgejetson about "tough" art, and wanted to throw in my 2c that boiled down, essentially, to agreement, with some caveats about what constitutes "difficulty". I was asserting that while great art can seem readily comprehensible and accessible it is not necessarily so, but instead always carries difficulties of its own.

Like you said, I don't think we're in general disagreement. However, I'd say our taste diverges insofar as much 20th C music is concerned, and while we tend to like similar films, I would note that our, for example, favourite directors lists differ in numerous, significant ways (e.g. I would have Satayjit Ray, Fassbinder, Cassavetes and Mizoguchi while there would be no Bergman, Hitchcock, Kubrick or Kurosawa). More related to the article on hand, "What I Look for in Art", Hitchcock is, I think, a good example of where our criteria sharply differs in that I recognize the proficiency of his work--he was a brilliant formalist, who knew exactly how to assail one's unconscious and manipulate mood--but his films were often so intellectually stunted that I cannot canonize him. You describe emotional conviction and ingenuity as constituting depth, but you're leaving out what is, for me, an equally important consideration: intelligence. As Ray wrote, in his wonderful, succinct essay "New Wave and Old Master": "The fact is, Hitchcock was not prepared to accept a position [bestowed by Cahiers] in the hierarchy of film makers which he believed did not belong to him. As he had himself said on many occasions, he thought of himself primarily as an entertainer, peddling a unique brand of suspense spiced with horror and leavened with humour... [T]he genre that Hitchcock chose for himself, debars by its very nature the kind of seriousness one associates with the writers Truffaut mentions [Kafka, Poe and Dostoevsky]... Hitchcock is obliged to deal with characters who are supposed to exist on a level of everyday reality, and yet have no existence beyond the needs of melodramatic plot designed solely to generate maximum suspense. Admittedly, the creation of such suspense calls for ingenuity of a very special kind; but such ingenuity can never be a concomitant of serious art ". His films are certainly--axiomatically--emotional, but Hitchcock rarely has much to say about life. That said, Rear Window is a great one.

These differences are, of course, a good thing as far as I'm concerned, as "Art lives upon discussion", and if we all liked the same things in the same ways it would be awfully dull.

Re: trajectory ... it was confusing due to my initial, distracted, in haste response. I wasn't arguing, though my "state of confusion" (and replying by phone), might have made it seem that way. I was merely (trying to) describe how what he says about depth seems to match my criteria closely. I am pretty sure I agree with his distinction, and yours, between "difficulty" and "density".

Re: leaving out intelligence ... I think you may have missed this part:

'When I say ingenuity I mean, ideally, "an expression that took singular intelligence to conceive".'

...but no worries :)

Hitchcock might not have much to say about the real world around most people, but I would definitely say that hidden just beneath the surface of his entertainments is often a helluva lot to reveal about himself (even if he may have never expected people to realize it), his state of mind, his conceptions of things, his feelings, his paranoia... etc. I may be wrong, but I don't think he wanted or expected people to "see" this aspect of his films. It's so consistently evident that I think he hid these in his films in a conscious attempt to play (often twisted or paranoid) "games" with the viewer (and probably, critics too), who did not conceive of their depth past their surface entertainment. His films are their own universe, a universe of his own making, "purely cinematic". His characters and plots are "lost", "trapped" in the "world of cinema". They are trapped and dictated inside Hitchcock's game, completely under his control, in his own cinematic universe. This "cinema" is really Hitchcock's state of mind revealed, enveloped and obsessed by cinema. He is like an unabashedly entertaining, apparently lucid, highly organized David Lynch -- even if that at first seems like an oxy moron!

Rear Window is, indeed, one of his most masterful examples!

Re: differences being a good thing ... I absolutely agree! :-)

Ahh, gotcha. Perhaps because of the term "ingenuity", and examples of artists who were enormously innovative from a technical viewpoint, I took "an expression that took singular intelligence to conceive" as referring to formal intelligence, opposed to vision of life. But I think I follow now! Good chat!

Aha, thanks, glad we figured this all out! :-)

"On my scale, a 10 would essentially be a 9.5 accumulating in power until it has doubled, or, if it's easier to think with, two full 9.5s, one after the other (though each part of the same work). To be ultra-specific, a 9.8/10 is probably on the order of a 9.3/10 and 9.5/10 put together. And, as described above, a 10/10 would indeed be twice as amazing as a 9.5/10."

So if a 9.5/10 movie has a 9.5/10 soundtrack, in a way the soundtrack fits the movie perfectly, it would be a 10/10 movie?

I dont know, but probably not because a soundtrack of a film isn't nearly as important as its cinematic/visual components. But, I suppose, we'll never know, unless someone perfectly aligns Shostakovich's 15th to Citizen Kane's running time or something :-)

An additional note is that those loose calculations of "Rating A" plus "Rating B" equals "Rating C" probably need to be adjusted after my latest adventure through Rock 8's, 8.5's and 9's. They're not too far off but I've probably exaggerated some of them.

This is kinda interesting. A couple of ideas here. If you look at Scaruffi's "album career" rating system, there's an exponential scale where a 7 is a 1, 8 is a 10, etc. It's 10^(x-7). There's another version that makes room for 6's. He rounds the .5 grades down to whole numbers (7.5 to 7), but there's no need to do that.. you could even use your full 7.61's or whatever. [Side note: while I don't know what you have below 7.8, just from what I know, your highest ranking "rock" (as I've defined it) album artists using this system are Velvets, Buckley, Beefheart, Dylan, Doors, and Nico (that is if you exclude 1-album fluke people)]. By that logic a career of two 9's (100 pts each) has the same value as one 9.3 album (200 pts). But what if the "two 9's" came from the same album, like two separate unrelated concepts both represented with 9 worthy depth by the same music. Is that a 9.3? Or does being able to represent two things simultaneously get extra credit? Does it take some kind of special ingenuity?

If each half of an album were a 9.0/10 than it would probably be 9.6 or 9.7 on my scale (what I say here is more updated than what Ive written in my criteria above). For instance, if one were to split Beetovens 9th in half pretty evenly -- to keep it simple -- the 1st movement + 3rd movement is probably a 9/10 and the 2nd movement + 4th movement is probably a 9/10.

Re: Extra credit ... The same numerical logic applies. While listening, sometimes I favor the more varied, expansive work, other times the more focused one.

Also consistency of quality absolutely is a factor in the overall rating. For instance, lets say an album had a track on "side A" that was a 9 on its own, and also a track on "side B" that was a 9 on its own. However, amongst those 9's on each side were lesser rated tracks such as 7s and so forth. Thats an example of an album with "two 9s" that might get an overall rating of 9.3 (or thereabouts) instead of 9.5. It depends on what percentage of the album is a 9+ not just the fact that it has 9s within it. Hope that makes sense.

To Human Emotions: What Im saying in the quote you referenced is that C Kane would have to either double in emotional depth and significance to attain a full 10/10 within the same running time. Or, continue past its 2 hr running time and, within that extra duration, attain a whole additional full 9.5 (adding on to the 9.5 attained during its initial 2 hours). That would probably be 10/10 overall as well.

In rating films, I do not consider the soundtrack an equal half of the overall rating. The soundtrack is very far below the importance of the cinematic aspects being considered. Just like a person walking into the Sistine Chapel with a camera scanning the entire Michelangelo work, would not have a 9.6 "cinematic achievement" - he is merely "showing" a 9.6 work of visual art.

On another hand, the significance that the soundtrack has on the overall rating rises proportionate to how integral and successfully the director employs it to the cinematic language of the film. The actual soundtrack of C Kane is among the greatest examples of this. Also, a film such as Mean Streets or Pulp Fiction, or Klimov's Come & See, or Once Upon a Time in the West. While the soundtracks aren't nearly the most important aspects of each of those films, they do facilitate their overall quality (thus, rating) more than most films.

Yeah, I got that part. And I can see what you mean about the soundtrack not being an equal half (though I don't think the "camera scanning the Sistine Chapel" analogy works because the camera is, as you said, just showing the work, whereas the music in a film is supposed to enhance the experience, but can stand on its own as well).

I was thinking more along the lines of something like Fantasia, though that film is not nearly great enough to be a good example of what I'm talking about (perhaps its best segments, but they would have to share a common theme [both in the visuals and the soundtrack] and expand upon it so that the film would attain a 9.5 independent from the soundtrack, and the soundtrack would attain a 9.5 independent from the images accompanying it).

Camera analogy ... I would agree that a good number of soundtracks play a larger role than a camera merely scanning the Sistine Chapel would

Re: Fantasia/potential examples ... The idea seems like it could be executed by a collaboration between one of the greatest directors and one if the greatest composers. Dont know if it ever will be though.

Re: "two 9's" I don't mean that there are two 9-level tracks or sides. I'm referring to an album where the same music simultaneously expresses two concepts, both of which to a 9-worthy extent individually. So the album would be a 9 even when ignoring half of it's depth. For example, you could say that Astral Weeks expresses "reflections of formative experiences which led to spiritual growth, traumatic or otherwise" AND "nostalgia over youth in Belfast". Suppose that the music expresses the first concept with enough intensity and creativity that you'd give it a 9 without even thinking about the second concept, and vice versa. As there'd be essentially two 9 worth albums in the album (metaphorically), it should get a 9.3 (using the Scaruffi math). But I mean maybe there's some genius involved in being able to use the same music in two different ways (hence extra credit).

In the absence of the overlapping/simultaneous aspect, I tend to think that too many unrelated concepts make an album worse because they can't be explored so deeply (unless maybe the album is really long :) ). If there's a lot of diversity, I think the concepts should at least be related, so they make a larger point on the whole. Like if you did an album on the 2008 financial crisis you could have some sparse and sad songs focused on the vanishing middle class and some heavily arranged and happy songs on the big banks, and it would all work out because of the larger statement on income inequality. But an album where half of the songs depicted what it feels like to be really itchy and the other half depicted regret over failed relationships a la "Happy Sad", the whole might be less than the sum of the parts.

I see what you mean now. A 9/10 is so extraordinary that it requires (for me) -- in all cases I can think of -- a confluence of explosive creativity and emotional significance to reach said rating. If one stripped Astral Weeks of one of those aspects, it is unlikely it would be a 9/10, but it's really hard to say as it is difficult to imagine. While I am listening to the work I am listening as observantly as possible to it's entire expression at once, as it is happening. In doing this I definitely consider various aspects individually, but I am considering how they are working within and amongst eachother, and as a whole.

Re: Scaruffi ... I very much doubt that math holds up to close scrutiny (or is intended to), as his 9.3s -- or low-9.5s -- (by my estimation) do not have two full-9's within them -- or, rather -- are not "double" the significance of his 9/10s (again, by my estimation). He might disagree, but if it were so, there would be a very "unnatural" leap from 9 to 9.5.

Re: overlapping/simultaneous/unrelated concepts ... I generally agree. There are only rare examples such as Rock Bottom, Shostakovich's 15th and Mahler's 9th, as well as a handful of others that have achieved the depth (and consistency) necessary to be 9.3+ while also sporting a tremendous diversity of sound and theme. Even the greatest artists at diversity rarely get higher than an 8.5 or 9.

Ok cool. Maybe we just proved that Scaruffi follows the extra credit concept to get the number up that high while still following the 10x/point rule?

Diversity: the key for me is, whenever finding "aberrations" on an album, see if they still fit the apparent overall concept when that concept is broadened and if so, A) whether the broadened concept is weaker or actually more profound than the one originally thought of based on the tracks which "fit" and B) whether the broadened concept was truly intended rather than forced. Like Sgt. Pepper's. The concept is basically that an old fashioned musical hall band (a "northern band") goes psychedelic in concert on their 20th anniversary, replete with an intro and song and an outro reprising it (let's ignore how a lot of the middle part was written without regard for there being a concert). But "A Day In The Life" wouldn't make sense as an encore in this concert because it would be too difficult to play. So did they just not go through with the concept all the way (meaning it should rate more lowly)? Or is it a larger concept about existentialism (the concert being like a dream which they gradually come out of by dealing with more mundane and less fantastical topics before the reprise.. and the finale dealing with full blown real life but itself then containing a dream within it) and if so, is it expressed more profoundly than the original concept would have been had it carried all the way through?

Re: Scaruffi ... Who knows, perhaps? He's difficult to crack. My opinion is that he never tells all so that he remains something of a mysterious/elusive figure. Especially if you ask him something that hasn't yet been answered on his website. Hard to blame him. He's fairly famous and "the public" can be rather cruel to such figures when they give away too much/leak advance information etc, especially in this social media age.

Re: Sgt Pepper ... In my estimation the concept of that album is not particularly significant or important to its rating. But maybe I'm missing something.

Oh whoops. I was speaking personally re Sgt P. Personal approach to begin tackling a concept's execution.

Oh yeah, that's right -- I lost track of the starting of your paragraph. Pretty sure I agree with your (A) and (B), except I dont worry much about what the artist intended except in leading me to understanding the result. The rating is based on result only. Maybe that's what you mean?

Sounds like we are total differently-articuated agreement

Agreed :-)