What I Look For in Art

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Basically speaking, my artistic ideals are works possessing:

1. Expressed Emotional Conviction

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

Some famous "Top Tier" examples of "expressed emotional conviction":
Symphony #5-Beethoven
Symphony #9-Beethoven
The Black Saint & The Sinner Lady-Charles Mingus
A Love Supreme-John Coltrane
The Doors-The Doors
Astral Weeks-Van Morrison
Metropolis-Lang
The Godfather, Part 2-Coppola

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

2. Ingenuity

When I say 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 waiting in line to direct a movie. An example of what I don't mean is that even though it may be "unique" to record an elephant's fart, I would not care at all if this was done even if it had never been done before and never done again - it clearly does not take much ingenuity to do so - perhaps just some patience and bravery.

Some famous "Top Tier" examples of "ingenuity":
Symphony #9-Beethoven
Rite of Spring-Stravinsky
Free Jazz-Ornette Coleman
Bitches Brew-Miles Davis
Trout Mask Replica-Captain Beefheart
The Velvet Underground & Nico-The Velvet Underground
Citizen Kane-Welles
2001: A Space Odyssey-Kubrick

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 these 2 factors above equal? In a word, depth.

When I hear an album or see a film that is high on expressed emotional conviction and low on ingenuity I may find it to be a good, exciting watch or listen the first time but it is unlikely to stay with me long after that. Similarly, a film or album that is high on ingenuity and low on emotional conviction does little for me as well in the long term.

Another interesting thing is that each factor seems to be dependant upon one another to reach its highest states. For me, something can only be so emotional without a certain degree of ingenuity involved, and something can only be so ingenius without creating a great emotional effect. How much awe and wonder and other strong emotional reactions do the most ingenius works 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 ranking, the greater the collaboration of these two factors and the greater their effect upon me. There is nothing mysterious or difficult to grasp about my choices. It is that simple, honest.

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...