What Is The Point Of The Academy Awards?

“Well, we know where we’re goin’
But we don’t know where we’ve been
And we know what we’re knowin’
But we can’t say what we’ve seen”*

All the controversy surrounding them this year only serves to remind me of one overriding fact- Regardless of who is “nominated” or what is being compared- Who’s to really say who, or what work, is better than any other artist or any other work? “Peer” or not.

What basis do you use?

For a film, say, nominated for “Best Picture” do you keep a scorecard of all the various skills that go into making a film, adding points for music, sound, lighting, set design, story, direction, cast, lead and supporting actors and after seeing all the nominees vote for the film that scores the highest? What do you do if you scored a film higher that wasn’t nominated? How do you choose a “Best Director” winner? Do you give him or her the credit, or the blame, a plus or a minus, for the job done by the actors, composer & musicians, the crew, and on and on, then total them up? What if the director has an exceptionally “good,” or “bad” script? Add points, or subtract? I can’t imagine how anyone could make such a choice. How could they really KNOW if the actors “carried” the director, or vice versa, and on and on? Only those who were actually there have any idea, and they were only “there” for the movie they were working on. Whatever the means they use, looking at the track record of the results, it would appear to be an inexact science, at best, to put it kindly.

“Contests” of any kind comparing artists in any field are one of the most pointless things I can think of. WHY put everyone through them, then? Frankly? I don’t think it can be done.

On top of it all, and what galls me as much as anything to the point that I just can’t get over it- how do you explain Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Orson Welles, Charlie Chaplin, Akira Kurosawa, Federico Fellini, some of the masters of film making, never won? (Hitch & Chaplin received “Honorary Oscars” later in their lives.) That alone proves the pointlessness of the whole exercise! The same goes for Golden Globes, The Grammies (which I just addressed), Tonys, you name it.

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On the “List of  who Lost” (sorry, Moz) are some of the greatest films I’ve ever seen. Like 8 of these, by a guy who himself “lost” 4 times.

The longevity of these awards is used to add “cachet” to them, which gets repeated year after year, so it feeds off itself in an effort to become “tradition.” Nonsense. It’s just part of the machine, the industry built up around them to market them. All it does is remind me of how futile the whole thing is.

When I was beginning to learn about the history of film, I saw a book of the “100 Greatest Films,” which I bought because it was full of  films I’d never heard of. I put them on my list to see, nothing more. I wasn’t above adding titles to that list from just about anywhere because I was trying to develop a feel for what had been done going back to the late 19th Century. I can’t say I’ve ever looked once to see if a movie won an award or not. Awards are done after the film is finished- they don’t change the acting, or the ending. Maybe because I was used to it in Art & Music, where great talent often goes overlooked and fails to reach a mass audience until years, even centuries, after their death, I’ve never really given any meaning to whether a film was “popular” or not. I can’t account for why the great masses like something. But, as becomes quickly apparently, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any good. The same is true with awards.

Maybe there is some sort of “valid criteria” that can be used to determine these things. I doubt it.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there.

Then there are charts like Rolling Stone publishes of “Top 100″ Songs, Bands, Guitarists, Albums, “Top 70 Bob Dylan Songs” and on and on. Give me a break.

ALL of these awards and lists, come down to one thing- Personal Opinions! And you know what they say about them…Everyone’s got one. ; )

The best “award” you can give something is for it to be widely seen or heard and just as widely appreciated. I bet that would mean more to most of the filmmakers than anything else. Oh? (And I’m talking to “critics” now who get to vote on a lot of these lists) while you’re at it, go back and discover the history of film, the history of recorded music, or whatever the medium is under consideration and gain some perspective about what has been done before, before you go talking about something being a “masterpiece” or “one of the best ever.” Compared to what? Those don’t come along nearly as often as I hear those phrases thrown around.

The “real” purpose of these “awards” is to sell extra tickets, DVD’s, downloads, or whatever to the masses who then think “If it won (fill in the blank), it must be the best.” And, they also give the nominees an excuse to get dressed up, and publicize themselves  in the media spectacle created to broadcast these absurdities to the masses.

“We’re on a ride to nowhere
Come on inside
Takin’ that ride to nowhere
We’ll take that ride

Maybe you wonder where you are
I don’t care”*

Make up your own mind about what speaks to you. Spend some time to look back on the history of Film (and/or Music, Art, Literature, et al), and you’ll more than likely find other works you like quite a bit that you never heard of before. And, you’ll gain a sense of just how and where whatever is being done today “fits in” to the legacy of the work done already.

But, if  you watch one of these things, listen for those few who say about being nominated, or when accepting an award that “There are no winners or losers tonite.”

They’re the few who are telling the truth.

(I touched on this as #4A & 4B in my Post of “10 Things Wrong With The Arts” and began to address it here, about the Grammys.)

POSTSCRIPT- Wednesday, March 2, 2016- Spike Lee, in an interesting interview in the Voice, talks about the monetary value to Oscar recipients, which is, of course, part of what I said above, how winning an Oscar “elevates your presence. If that weren’t the case they wouldn’t b spending millions of dollars on Oscar campaigns.  It’s well-thought-out.” Is he inferring they can be bought? Regardless, it just heightens my feeling that this has ever less to do with the “Art” of Film.

*-Soundtrack for this post- “Road To Nowhere” by David Byrne from the Talking Heads album “Little Creatures” and published by Warner/Chappell Music, LLC.

Comments are off, but that doesn’t mean I don’t welcome them, thoughts, feedback or propositions. Please send them to denizen@nighthawknyc.com.

Happy 86th Birthday, Sister Wendy! I Miss You.

Today, February 25th, is Sister Wendy’s 86th Birthday…

In front of the trailer she now lives in, in seclusion. As seen in her 2006 book "Joy Lasts" published by Getty Publishing.

With the trailer she now lives in, in Cloistered seclusion, seen in her 2006 book “Joy Lasts” published by Getty Publishing.

“Starry, starry night

Paint your pallet blue and gray

Look out on a summer’s day

With eyes that know the darkness in my soul”*

Remember Sister Wendy ? The English Nun who became the most unlikely Art expert & historian in the history of Public Television (and the BBC) in the 1990’s, and probably, the most famous Art expert in television history? To me, she’s a rare instance when “most popular” is also one of the best.1

I absolutely LOVE her!

Ok, I’m a failed Catholic and our spiritual worlds are an Atlantic Ocean apart, but I’ve never been so captivated listening to ANYONE, who isn’t an Artist, talk about Art as I have been listening to her. She has this amazing way of being true to herself and her beliefs while at the same time being honest and open minded about what she is seeing and, most importantly, the all too rare ability of making Art accessible to anyone. She accepts the “human-ness” of men (and women) in a surprisingly sensitive way. Her Love of God remains intact when viewing the work of the most “human” of beings, which depicts them doing the most “human” of things on a fairly regular basis. Hearing a (committed virgin) nun discuss nudity for example, or even sex, is at first shocking, until you listen to what she has to say. Otherwise, I would have turned her off in minutes.

“Colors change in hue

Morning fields of amber grain

Weathered faces lined in pain

Are soothed beneith the artist’s loving hand.”*

If you’re looking to learn about Art History? I heartily recommend her videos and books. In either medium, start with “The Story of Painting,” which for me was just a magical experience. (Her other essential book, “1,000 Masterpieces,” strikes me as being the world’s-finest-Museum-in-a-book that comes with her uncanny insights on each work.) My copy of the book and the videos are still within easy access. Even if you know something, or a lot of things about Art & Art History, you’ll find her insights eye opening, her opinions unique. But don’t stop there. “Sister Wendy’s American Collection,” (SWAC) a 6 part tour of some of the finest American Museums, is also essential.

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Not posed- This is really how they are in my apt. Her book sits between MIchelangelo’s Letters, Velazquez and Ingres. I need her more than they do.

Actually, looking at Met Director Thomas P. Campbell’s Instagram page, which I dipped into last week, I happened on this picture that reminded me of “SWAC.” A spoiler for the video on The Met- During her Tour of TM, SW makes a point of showing us her “favorite” works in the Museum! I’ve been there over 1,300 times. I knew most of the works she selected (Phew!), but I was left stunned by this fact- TM has over TWO MILLION works in their collection. I doubt ANYONE has seen them all. How does this 70-something Nun from England find a work like this-

which is small (less than 6 inches tall) and not exactly displayed front and center, in the middle of 4 City Blocks of Art? Next time you go? I dare you to find it, without asking. SW singled it out as one of the most beautiful works in TM. Wow! I just mean “WOW!” Yes, it is, but the sheer act of her choosing it among everything else will forever blow my mind. You can see it at the 3 minute mark of the full episode on TM here-

Think about that for one minute- Anyone who goes to a Museum goes with a list of things they want to see- favorite artists, works, special shows, and on and on. Very few go with an open mind to “just see.” What’s that old Zen Buddhist saying? ”In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.” SW is an expert, yet, she goes to TM with an amazingly open mind and sees. That is just so incredibly hard to do.

“Starry, starry night

Portraits hung in empty halls

Frameless heads on nameless walls

With eyes that watch the world and can’t forget”*

To this day, anytime I see it, that’s what I think about- “Sister Wendy chose this.” When I first saw this in her video, my jaw hit the floor. Seeing Mr. Campbell post it on Instagram reminded me of that video. It also reminded me of how much I, and I think many, many others, miss Sister Wendy. While I respect her 2001 decision to devote her life to living in seclusion and contemplation, ending her career on television, she has unique and all too rare Gifts- The Gift of being able to make ANY Art as human as the Artist did (maybe more so), and especially of making Art more accessible than most other critics & historians, and then for instilling her passion and sheer love and respect for great Art in her viewers and readers. She certainly did, and continues to do that for me! I’ll be eternally grateful to her for that. But? As I said recently, adult Art Education is sorely needed today- countless millions need her gifts as much now as ever! Fortunately, she has produced a fairly large body of videos and books. Unfortunately, some of the videos seem to be slipping out of print (Hello, BBC Video? I seriously hope not!). Lesser known are her early writings for Modern Painters Magazine, back when it was something special. That was where I first discovered her.

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Modern Painters, Writer’s Issue, Autumn, 1992. Sister Wendy’s name doesn’t even make the list of writers on the cover! Before the year was over, she’d be the star of her own series on BBC TV, “Sister Wendy’s Odyssey.”

I’m not that close with “the Man Upstairs,” but just in case He or She happens to be a NighthawkNYC reader, or sees this Post in His or Her Omnipotence- Could You do the Art world a big favor and tell SW it’s “Ok” to come back to us? For the rest of us mere mortals, wherever or however you discover her, If you want to learn about Art History, or discover more about it, or if you just want to find out what makes Art worth your time and maybe “get” what all the Art fuss is about- I hope you’ll give her your time. I don’t know if there’s an afterlife, but I know one thing – For an Art Lover, or an aspiring one? Sister Wendy is blessing sent from Heaven.

“And now I think I know

What you tried to say to me

How you suffered for your sanity

How you tried to set them free”*

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SISTER WENDY, The Patron Saint of Art Lovers!

*- Soundtrack for this Post is “Starry Starry Night” by Don McLean and published by Universal Music Publishing Group.

Comments are off, but that doesn’t mean I don’t welcome them, thoughts, feedback or propositions. Please send them to denizen@nighthawknyc.com.

  1. Along with Kenneth Clark, Robert Hughes, Simon Schama, maybe one or two others I forget off the top of my head…

Morrissey’s “List of the Lost”

“Um, Nighthawk? Planet Earth, calling. You said you were reading this way back on October 23, 2015. Exactly 4 months have passed. Leaves and snow have fallen. ’15 became ’16. The Grammys finished making their own, annual, “List of the Lost.” So…

 

How the heck is it?”

I thought you’d never ask. ; )

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It’s a powerful, thought provoking, sad comment on human nature and parts of American society’s basest motivations that interestingly takes place in this country at a time when it’s author was yet to live here 1. It’s a work that will linger in the mind for both it’s messages and it’s craft. Along the way, many of the author’s long held core beliefs find their way into the narrative, along with a range of others. As an admitted Morrissey “fan” it’s not appropriate for me to “review” List, because of course, I’m going to say “It’s great! Read it!,” but it’s not that simple. Unlike Autobiography, which I think is 1/2 of a classic and I hope for an update one day, List is a novel, a dark one, that take place in a land where the sun never shines and where the untoward lurks around every corner, every moment. In the place of “review,” then, some observations. For those planning on reading it (as I write this it still hasn’t been published in the USA, but very reasonably priced copies are available online. Mine was less than 10. including shipping.) don’t worry, I will not “spoil the plot,” or give too much away. (As always, I have read nothing anyone has written about it, save for Morrissey’s quote on the back cover, which I pictured in October.)

I have been aware of Morrissey, listening to his music, going to see him and The Smiths (in 1986), and following his career since “The Smiths” (their debut Lp) came out in 1984. A number of my Posts here use his songs as their soundtracks. Almost 32 years on it’s IMPOSSIBLE for me to read something like this and not find my mind constantly being pulled in a hundred directions with every line, like following a decades long trail of bread crumbs. This is one reason I prefer movies with actors I don’t know (as when I first saw “2001”). Not knowing anything “about” them helps me believe their character more – there is none of their personal gossip and real life lore to get in the way. Reading List, it’s too hard for me to not bring any other point of reference to bear And? There are many- take 2013’s Autobiography. In it we learned (sorry for the spoiler, but you’ve had two years to read it) that young Morrissey was a runner, and one who did well at it. By chance, the 4 heroes of List are runners, a half mile relay team. Along with one of their girlfriends and the team’s coach they are most of the major players. In 1975 when the story takes place, they are 20, Morrissey was 16. So, is it fair to wonder why early on the author can go into such detail about the experience of running? The purpose of the runner? His feelings during training or of winning or losing? The depth with which he writes about their activity is knowing and considered. It’s obvious (or it sure feels that way) that he’s lived it. Been there and done that. So, Morrissey was a runner and has now written a novel about runners. A novel about 4 runners, a relay team, is very unusual if not unique.

And it’s in “coincidences” like this where my “troubles” began.

Morrissey’s Autobiography clocks in at 480 pages in paperback. HIs first novel, List of the Lost, totals a mere 118 pages. List took me longer to read. I started reading it 3 times. The first to get an idea of it, like I’ll take a quick walkthrough of a major art show I’m seeing for the first time, to get a feel for how to approach it. The restart was “Ok, let’s just read it.” Once I realized how very much Morrissey has packed into the very economical 118 pages, I realized it was too hard for me to read it in a vacuum (which won’t be a problem for most readers). I started athird, taking notes and making an outline. 28 pages of notes later, I finished reading List last night.

Readers Meet Author…”With The Hope Of Hearing Sense.”* Count Basie Theater, NJ Jan 15, 2013

As someone who grew up in America, 3,500 odd miles from where M grew up, though not all that many years apart, I find his observations on American family life fascinating. He does say in Autobiography that he visited the USA with his family as a kid. I grew up in one of those repressed households he describes early on, and seeing it through his eyes was a revelation- for me, about my own life-

“Sex was always there…yet… difficult to obtain…because of the atomic supremacy in the family values of their upbringings which, of course, circumscribed the sons’ freedom to fly, since a certain sexlessness kept the grown child tied to the family, even if the impossibly constricted demands could very easily lead to a form of sexual cremation for the young child. The parental mind would allow the child time to develop political views, but there would certainly be no question of allowing the child time to choose its preferred religion, and even more importantly, the grand assumption that all children are extensively heterosexually resolved at birth whipped a demented torment across the many who were not. Whether physical maneuvers were difficlut or easy (and it is usually one or the other, and for eternity), our foursome found in each other a generosity of spirit and determination that all other circumstances seemed blind to. Each would make up for the other’s loss- so firmly they took their friendship into their own hands, and around it went.” “List of the Lost,” Pages 11-12.

As you can see, he immediately folds this observation seamlessly into setting the stage for the characters in his book. Following this “crumb”, I began to notice snippets of more opinions and observations, at first gradually, then more at length, that are nothing less than commentary on society and a range of many other topics. They are generally well placed as context, but they did tend to “jar” me out of the story to ponder a bigger picture. As I read the book, I was fascinated by what the writer chooses to include, and leave out (see ^ below). This is largely accomplished through the voice I call the Narrator (N). Exactly who he is is never revealed. Yet, his views are remarkably similar to the author’s. (Narrator Meet Author?) He is the “other” major character in List.

The N provided a steady stream of interest for me, delaying my completion date at every page turn, and he pontificates for pages at a time in a 118 page book. Animal nature, animal rights and lack thereof, human nature, the differences between animals and humans, sex, hookups, middle aged men, old men, old women, Churchill, Princess-later-Queen Elizabeth, royals in general, nuclear engineers, the police, war and war dead, the asexuality of friendships, who really won WW2, sports as “news,” justice & the courts, meat overeating Americans and their children (a laundry “list” of M’s hot button issues if there ever was one), are some of the topics our N addresses at length, while key moments of plot happen in a flash. Other topics, yes including homosexuality are occasionally discussed at length by the characters, but mostly it’s left to the N.

For me, it’s tempting to take List apart and make it into two books- one of the Narrator, the other the story proper. There would be minimal overlap from the former to the latter, but the former may well stand as treatise by itself. The N goes deeper than I’ve heard Morrissey go on many of these topics before, even in Autobiography, where most of these are not touched on.

(^)Interestingly and completely absent among that list there is no music. No talk of it. No mention of anything going on in music at the time. This is very surprising. Autobiography is full of this talk. Would it have been all that unique if the 4 had been members of a band, instead of runners? Then everyone would have read it as The Smiths. Disaster. Besides, he’s addressed all that in Autobiography. Without music, we are, almost, in an alternate, USA-based, young Morrissey universe. The universe of Moz the runner and not young Moz the Bowie/Ramones/NY Dolls acolyte of a few years later.

His role seemingly all-seeing, the narrator also steps in to address and reveal the inner mind of the characters. Some of the best writing in the book comes at these times, in my opinion. At once- the micro and macro view of the world, and their worlds, big and small. It’s as if everything that happens in our lives, or life, takes place in the same cosmic “mind”, only in different parts of it.

Unlike parts of Autobiography, this time, things as a whole feel sharply focused. He has compacted the story to it’s most essential moments, leaving the rest of the room for the N. In that way, it’s cannily done. In two outings we have a fascinating autobiography that might be a bit too expansive in parts and a amazingly compact novel that doesn’t “waste” one moment’s time. It’s story, in spite of it’s twists and turns, could be outlined quickly- mine is less than a page, but therein lay lifetimes of choices, instincts, ramifications and intentions as seen from the eyes of youth and the aged. Each, a product of environment, experience and family like those on Page 11, has their point of view, their reasons, their dreams. Yet, in the end, each are destined to the same fates- over which they may have “limited” control.

By setting the piece in 1975 he allows some distance on the events- both figurative and literally, though of course, in the end, that doesn’t matter- all of the tale’s key points hold every bit as much today. A morality play set in 1975 that serves as a tale of warning for today, like a gift from a caring “Hey, watch out for this.” friend, lest we too wind up on the List of the Lost. The “problem” is that while many things are in our control, as we see here things also happen in life that no amount of watchfulness is going to stop.

What does his song say? “Books don’t save them, books aren’t Stanley Knives.”*

“List of the Lost” is published by Penguin Books.

Soundtrack for this post is “Lucky Lisp,” by the author of “List of the Lost” and Stephen Street from Morrissey’s “Bona Drag” album.  It came on one day recently and crystalized for me why it took me so long to finish this book. As in “Yes, I know it’s taking me a long time to finish. Then again, I still haven’t gotten what “Lucky Lisp” is about!” It seems these folks haven’t, either.

*-From “Reader Meet Author” By Morrissey and Boz Boorer from “Southpaw Grammar” published by Warner Chappell Music Publishing.

Comments are off, but that doesn’t mean I don’t welcome them, thoughts, feedback or propositions. Please send them to denizen@nighthawknyc.com.

  1. His first visit was apparently in 1976, per page 125 of the eBook Autobiography. He mentions “three more trips to America before 1980…and I cry my way back to intolerant Manchester,” where he works as a basement filing clerk “to get the money to return to America.” Pages 127-28. He’s famously lived in Cali, next door to Nancy Sinatra for years now

You Never Know What You’ll See At The Met…

Great fun working at the Information Desk today. The most common question? Where’s the bathroom!

A photo posted by Tom Campbell (@thomaspcampbell) on

…And I almost went yesterday to renew my Membership for Year #14…Could have gotten it done by the Boss, himself- the man with one of the most prestigious, and to my mind, one of the most important jobs in Art (not to be confused with the “art business.”) Amazing!

“Hey now you better listen to me everyone of you
We got a lotta, lotta, lotta, lotta work to do
Forget about your woman and that water can
Today were working for the man

Well pick up your feet
We’ve got a deadline to meet
I’m gonna see you make it on time
Don’t relax
I want elbows and backs
I want to see everybody from behind

‘Cause your working for the man working for the man.”*

If I had? I would have asked him what his favorite “under-known” work or room is. I know where the bathrooms are. ;  )

*-Soundtrack for this post is “Workin For The Man,” by Roy Orbison from “The Last Concert” by Roy and Joe Melson and published by Sony ATV Music Publishing and Roy Orbison Music Co and Warner/Chappell Music Publishing.

Comments are off, but that doesn’t mean I don’t welcome them, thoughts, feedback or propositions. Please send them to denizen@nighthawknyc.com.

 

 

I Hate The Grammys.

What a pathetic joke they’ve been for over 50 years. No, they don’t get an award for that.

First- they have nothing to do with “Music.” “Aural entertainment?,” perhaps. I’m guessing but I bet at least 75% of the most important records made since the Grammys began have gone overlooked. Then, what’s really the deal with these “awards?”

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“Gold” record be damned. Art’s “award” is timelessness. The word “Grammy” is worthless to me, but, when I see “Blue Note” on a record, there’s a better chance it’s a classic, like this one by Sonny Clark, his debut, from 1957. There was no “Best New Artist” Grammy in 1957, saving Mr. Clark from losing it.

Let’s start with an easy one…”Best New Artist.” Define that. What the hell do you mean? Best Artist to be Born this year? Best Artist who never stepped into a recording studio before this year? Does that include home studios? Best Artist 1 Million people finally heard of (though they’ve been out there making music for years)? Maybe I’m being facetious. Or, is it Best New Artist To Make The Most People Some Money, So Keep It Coming Cause Our Livelihoods Depend On It?

Looking at the list of winners and nominees, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the latter. For the life of me, I don’t see how some of them could have ever been picked otherwise. Who the heck knows who’s going to be any good in 5 years? 10 years? Let alone 50 years? Anyone hear from prior winners Paula Cole, LeAnn Rimes, Hootie & The Blowfish, or Vacated lately? Jody Watley, Christopher Cross, Debby Boone or A Taste of Honey? How’s that working out for you? Not to mention Milli Vanilli. Oops.

I didn’t watch the show tonite, but I heard that Lady GaGa was going to do a tribute to David Bowie. I find this a wonderful, and poignant idea. Coincidentally, neither were even nominated for Best New Artist! Yes, without Bowie, there’s no Lady GaGa, but it reinforces, for me, one thing I love about Bowie- he’s an “outsider,” here at the Grammys, too. It’s also a reminder that really good music lasts & continues to speak to people. No “awards” necessary. Will 2015’s?

Musically? I think we might be ready to consider naming the “Best New Artist of 1960” now. That is if you want to actually consider what music has been written and created in the interim by an artist who was new then. So, yes, 1960 is about long enough ago. Unfortunately, among the group consisting of 1960 B.N.A. Grammy winner, Bobby Darin, or the nominees (Edd Byrnes, Johnny Restivo, Mark Murphy, or Mavis Rivers), only Mark Murphy made a substantial body of music over the last 55 years, as far as I know. 1 Ummm…Isn’t that what matters? Who the nominees “should” have been would take quite a bit of research (if you have any suggestions, let me know. Wayne Shorter, who’s solo debut “Introducing Wayne Shorter” was released in August, 1960, though he’d been recording before that, would be on my list), and, to my way of thinking, it should include all genres of music, not just “popular” music. As fun as this might be to consider, as I said, I don’t believe in comparing Artists or creative works with each other.

Ok. They’re not going to choose it like this, but see how ridiculous this is however you look at “Best New Artist,” regardless of whatever the stated “criteria” are?

While you’re at it? Take “Best (fill in Award title here).” What the hell does “Best” mean? And? How do you decide who “makes the cut” and gets nominated? Apparently, more comparing…based on…? It doesn’t matter.

Regardless of what they say their criteria are- How can you possibly compare Artist A to Artist B, (or even Record A to Record B), in any form of music? 2

YOU CAN’T!

J.S. Bach is, and will always be, Great. But, so are Jimi Hendrix, Mozart, Miles Davis, The Beatles, Stravinsky, Duke Ellington, Bob Marley, Karlheinz Stockhausen, The Who and Louis Armstrong, among many others. No “award” can change that. No “award” made them that. Their talent did. Artists stand by themselves, beyond category and beyond comparison to anyone else. 3

Why is this so hard to understand? All you need to do is listen.

To do that? Everyone else need to shut up.

Starting with the Grammys and the other music awards. These “awards” are pointless…stupid…they mean nothing, except for those that stand to make money on them. Even some good live performances doesn’t make the show watchable when you know it’s all an attempt at trying to brain wash the masses into thinking THIS is what they should listen to not because it’s any good musically, but because they want your money. It’s nothing but commercialism at it’s worst. It has NOTHING to do with Music.

Don’t fall for it! They’ll play anything over and over and over and over until they brainwash you into liking it. But? As another great artist, Gil Scot-Heron, says-

“You still got the on and off switch to the radio in your hand
You ain’t got to listen to nothing you don’t want to
Those things are still within  your power.”*


Everyone is entitled to make up their own minds and like, even love, what they like. Hopefully, they’ll like it enough to want to learn more about it and in the process maybe even discover other Artists, or even other genres of music they may also like. I’ve made my own mind up over many years of doing just that- by listening, performing music, producing it and working with and learning from musicians in different genres. A few lessons learned-

NO ONE can tell you what you should like.

And?

NO ONE can tell you what the “Best” of anything is. It’s only their opinion. Or, worse? It’s their way of paying back someone who made them money, (which makes their opinion worthless in my opinion).

They should probably rename the Grammys the “Most Selling Record Of The Year”…”Most Selling R&B Artist Of The Year,” etc., etc., Or? “Record That Made The Most People Some Money Of The Year,” because that’s the only way they can give awards that make any sense.

I have no desire to hear any of those.

I Love Music.

This is an expansion of Item #4B from my previous Post, “Ten Things Wrong In The Arts.”

(With apologies to my friend, and Grammy Award winner, Ben. You’ve always been tops in my book, I don’t know why it took them so long to appreciate you.)

*Soundtrack for this post is “The On/Off Switch(Interlude)” by Gil Scott-Heron from his final album, “Nothing New,” which I predict will be listened to long after most of this year’s winners are forgotten.

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This Post was created by Kenn Sava for www.nighthawknyc.com

  1. Thanks for the reminder, Dave.
  2. Yes, a new blues recording may sound “better” thanks to technological improvements than a 1930’s one microphone recording by Robert Johnson in a hotel room, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about musically comparing.
  3. I have NO problem with any Artist enjoying any award they are given. As I said previously, Artists get so little support or acknowledgement in America, ANY has got to feel great.

Written On My Soul- The Art of the Morrissey Tattoo

I don’t have the guts to get a tat, but if I did, a Morrissey-related tat would be on the short list of candidates. Possibly a small votive candle drawing of mine with “There is a light that never goes out” under it?

Candle in a rocks glass sketch. Well, not this one...

Candle in a rocks glass sketch. Well, maybe not this one…

Anyways, I am impressed, both, by those that have one, and by the new book depicting and honoring them, “To Me You Are A Work Of Art.”

Recommended unseen. I’d love to see what Moz, himself, says in the preface. UPDATE Feb 15, 2016- I have, and it’s beautiful! Clover Dean has posted it on Twitter so you can see it, here. “I feel a great responsibility when I look at these photographs because here is the listener answering back, and we shall now be close for the rest of our lives….The best music lasts forever…Now is the future when all’s well.”

It is?

I just got a whole lot closer to getting one.

Soundtrack for this Post is “To Me You Are A Work Of Art” by Morrissey and Alain Whyte from “Ringleader of the Tormentors.”

Comments are off, but that doesn’t mean I don’t welcome them, thoughts, feedback or propositions. Please send them to denizen@nighthawknyc.com.

Words To Live By From Man Ray

 

“The conscious individual striving to experience all the sensations of life is forced by his physical and temporal limits to receive them in a more concentrated form. This concentration of life is offered by the expressive arts.”

Man Ray, “No. 6 The Conscious Individual” November, 1915 from “Writings On Art”, P.20 Published by Getty Research Institute

One of the most unique Artists in history, Man Ray is one of those people who seems to continually appear…as one of the most revolutionary photographers ever, a painter (his first love), a sculptor, a graphic artist, and on and on…and also as a writer. He’s in all the major museums, but rarely gets a show of his own. I’ve always admired his work, and continually been surprised by it, and his accomplishment (as in “That’s a Man Ray, too?”) Having published a fascinating autobiography, perfectly titled “Self Portrait,” which drips with both insight and intrigue, now comes a collection of his writings about art. It’s a book that even rewards random reading- almost every page has a fascinating example of his one of a kind mind.

I think they make wonderful meditations…

Soundtrack for this post is, what else? “Man Ray,” by the Futureheads from their 2004 self-titled album.

Please send comments, thoughts, feedback or propositions to denizen at nighthawknyc.com.
Click the white box on the upper right, for the archives, to search, or to subscribe.
This Post was created by Kenn Sava for www.nighthawknyc.com

10 Things Wrong In The Arts

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Things are somewhat different in Europe. “The Practioners of the Visual Arts” by Cornelius Cort, 1578, currently on view in a superb print show at The Met.

In homage to the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Orson Welles, I thought I’d borrow an idea of his from “Citizen Kane” where Kane publishes his “Manifesto” on the first page of “The Inquirer,” in the form of my own ”Top 10 List.” This one is about things that have bothered me for quite some time. Though it’s not a “Manifesto,” per se, it does contain some of my core beliefs. By way of introduction, here are the lyrics for this Post’s Soundtrack, which just happens to be called “Manifesto,” by Roxy Music-

“I am for a life around the corner
That takes you by surprise
That comes leaves all you need
And more besides

Or nothing to the man who wants tomorrow
There’s one in every town
A crazy guy, hed rather die
Than be tied down

I am for the man who drives the hammer
To rock you till the grave
His power drill shocks
A million miles away

I am for the revolution’s coming
I don’t know where she’s been
For those who dare because it’s there
I know I’ve seen

Now and then I’ve suffered imperfection
I’ve studied marble flaws
And faces drawn pale and worn
By many tears

I am that I am from out of nowhere
To fight without a cause
Roots strain against the grain
With brute force you’d better

Hold out when you’re in doubt
Question what you see
And when you find an answer
Bring it home to me”*

10 Things Wrong In The Arts 1

10- General Admission prices of more than $15. for any Museum, and Memberships costing more than 75./year. I believe higher prices are short sighted- for the institution, even financially. Also, a related thought- New ways must be found to bring Art to (more) people for less, or free. 2

9- The lack of support (public and private) for Artists in America- financially, and beyond.

8- The lack of outlets for the exposure of Art/Artists in America.

7A- The lack of Arts education in grades K-12. And…

7B -Then inflating the value of formal higher Arts education 3 – It’s no guarantee. There are just as many great Artists who went to school as those who did not.

6- The absurdity of the amount of money spent on unproven contemporary art. Talk about a “bubble!” Look out below!

DSC08037PNH

Thanks for the sign, or someone might be trying to get $100,000 for it.

5- Architecture by committee. Just look around New York, or any other American City (Not to say it’s all that better anywhere else).

4A- “Halls of Fame” – ALL of them. Open a Museum instead. And…

4B- Comparative Award Shows – Oscars4, Grammies…ALL of them, too. Qualitatively comparing creative people/Artists is ABSURD! It’s not possible. Stop the insanity now!

3- The lack of auction resale “royalties” for living artists. In an age where auction houses now get commissions from BOTH buyers & sellers, while artists get 0%, this just isn’t right 5.

2- Categorizing Artists with a one word “style” which they are then stuck with forevermore. And, by extension, lumping Artists into a one word stylistic group. Call them an “Artist” and leave it at that. What one word would you like to define you? Besides “Person?”

1- The “dumbing down” of American “culture.” In the 1960’s, the best popular music was among the best music of any genre of music being created in the world. Now? It’s almost impossible to say that about any art form. It feels like there is almost no interest in quality in American culture and those who are interested in it are left to find it on their own somewhat miraculously. Everything is second to “popularity,” which is usually meaningless in terms of something actually being “good.” Yes, millions of people can be wrong…repeatedly. There needs to be Arts Eduction & Appreciation for Adults, many of whom, like myself, grew up without any Arts Education in school (see the last part of #10). The past is prologue for the future, especially for Artists, who are influenced by it, as well as for the general public to learn about and appreciate it. If we fail to remember and appreciate what has been created before, we have little chance to build something greater any time soon, and we stand to lose our very culture- some of the greatest things Americans have achieved.

DSC08040PTitus KapharPNH

Titus Kaphar @ Jack Shainman, February, 2015

Each is a topic unto itself. The list is admittedly local not global, probably because I never leave Manhattan.

*-As I said, the Soundtrack for this Post is “Manifesto” by Bryan Ferry & Phil Manzanera from the Roxy Music Album with the same name. Published by Universal Music Publishing Group.

Comments are off, but that doesn’t mean I don’t welcome them, thoughts, feedback or propositions. Please send them to denizen@nighthawknyc.com.

  1. By “Arts” and “Artist” I mean all the Arts and all Artists- not only the visual Arts & visual Artists.
  2. Gallery shows are free for self-serving purposes, and are decidedly hit or miss in terms of Artistic “worth.” Regardless, they, alone, aren’t going to provide a working knowledge of Art History or American Culture. In the other Arts, free events are, generally, more entertainment oriented. Yes, ticket scalping is a serious problem that needs to be addressed, but I think that may be more a legal matter.
  3. Unless you need to learn a specific technical skill.
  4.  Remember- Charlie Chaplin, Hitchcock, Fellini, Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman or Stanley Kubrick, among others, never won an Oscar for Best Director! I rest my case.
  5. Exactly how this might work I don’t know, but the time for the dialogue to this end is overdue.