Dave Brubeck and the arts

E. J. Dionne’s tribute to the late, great Dave Brubeck contains some important insights into the arts in general:

Too often in the arts, the fact that someone is accessible is taken to mean that he isn’t truly creative. This is a very wrong idea, and it’s especially mistaken in the case of Brubeck, an extraordinary innovator in rhythm and meter. His music is now so familiar that we forget how daring he was as a composer.

He also defied the romantic image of the troubled and distant artist. It’s almost as if his being a generous soul, a loyal family guy, and a quietly and thoughtfully religious man — “Forty Days,” one of his best pieces, was inspired by Jesus’ wanderings in the desert — were held against him. Yet over the years, earthly redemption came his way. It turned out you could be both good and great.

“Art may not have the power to change the course of history, but it can provide a perspective on historical events that needs to be heard, even if it’s seldom heeded,” Brubeck said in a 2009 interview with Commonweal. “After all the temporary influences that once directed the course of history have vanished, great art survives and continues to speak to each generation.”

via E.J. Dionne Jr.: Dave Brubeck — a love affair – The Washington Post.

Great art can be accessible (contra the purposeful obscurity of much art and literature today).  Great artists can be normal human beings and solid citizens (contra the myth of the bohemian, that artists are unbound by bourgeois conventions).  Great art lasts; indeed, great art is pretty much the only thing that lasts from past civilizations and historical eras.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • elizabeth

    Gives me a lot to think about as I am headed to LACMA this morning to view the exhibit, “Bodies and Shadows: Caravaggio and His Legacy.” I have heard how troubled Caravaggio’s life was, but the museum description says, “The stories of Caravaggio’s life are legend, more myth than history, describing traits of personality, including passion and brutality, that came to describe the unique qualities of his work.” There is also a Stanley Kubrick exhibit. The description says “the exhibit reevaluates how we define the artist in the 21st century, and simultaneously expands upon LACMA’s commitment to exploring the intersection of art and film.” While there I will take notice of Brubeck’s words that art “can provide a perspective on historical events that needs to be heard, even if it’s seldom heeded.”

  • elizabeth

    Gives me a lot to think about as I am headed to LACMA this morning to view the exhibit, “Bodies and Shadows: Caravaggio and His Legacy.” I have heard how troubled Caravaggio’s life was, but the museum description says, “The stories of Caravaggio’s life are legend, more myth than history, describing traits of personality, including passion and brutality, that came to describe the unique qualities of his work.” There is also a Stanley Kubrick exhibit. The description says “the exhibit reevaluates how we define the artist in the 21st century, and simultaneously expands upon LACMA’s commitment to exploring the intersection of art and film.” While there I will take notice of Brubeck’s words that art “can provide a perspective on historical events that needs to be heard, even if it’s seldom heeded.”

  • Hanni

    I read that article by EJ in WaPo, and was so taken by it, glad you brought parts of here. Very thought provoking

  • Hanni

    I read that article by EJ in WaPo, and was so taken by it, glad you brought parts of here. Very thought provoking


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