I’m one of those people who is super impressionable when it comes to art. I mean, if it speaks to me, it’s as if I completely immerse myself in it to the point where it becomes my reality, it begins to re-define the parameters of what seem’s possible. It used to be such a disappointment when other people didn’t feel the same way, but I let that go a long time ago.
What happens is this: I see or hear something that resonates with me, and it’s like a rush of information suddenly hitting me on many more levels than I can consciously process – so I just submit to the experience and let it wash over and through me, like diving into the ocean. I don’t know what’s happening, I’m just entranced and overwhelmed by this new and novel experience.
Another thing I have noticed with these experiences is that there are layers to it, and it’s only after multiple viewings that these layers peel away and expose what’s going on in the deeper levels. I’ve often thought that great art always has a “high line” and a “low line.” What I mean is that there will be a superficial level that can be recognized and enjoyed by the most casual (i.e. dumbest) viewer, and then there are these deeper things going on for those who care to look closer.
I want to make a distinction here – my definition of art is simply something that was created purely as a form of self expression. Whether or not commerce has anything to do with it is irrelevant. So a multi-million dollar movie and miniature tapestries woven on socks in prison are, at least to me, playing on the same level (don’t forget the movie was based on a story written by somebody who was expressing something). For their ability to transport me to another reality, Yo Yo Ma and a homeless guy playing a self made instrument are both on an even plane. True story: I am a musician who spent decades playing and studying music, and I’ll never forget standing in a freezing, empty Boston subway station one night decades ago. There was what appeared to be a homeless guy who had made an instrument out of a broom handle, string and a metal bucket. The bucket was upside down with the string threaded through a hole in the bottom and attached to the far end end of the broom handle. So it was kind of a primitive acoustic bass – the tighter he made the string by moving the broom handle, the higher the pitch when he plucked it. Because it was an empty subway station, the acoustics were incredible – just this long, natural reverb. Now mind you, he wasn’t doing this for me – I just happened upon him. I remember standing there, waiting for the train, just stunned.
This guy was a virtuoso – playing these beautiful melodies and and walking bass lines. Pitch and time was fucking perfect, tone to die for. At some point the train came and I picked my jaw up off the floor and got on.
But not before the sound and everything I experienced at the scene were burned into my brain. Forever. He truly changed my concept of what was possible. My reality about the world I lived in changed just a little bit after that.
Art is transformative. It just makes life better.