Tuesday, September 19, 2006

What Does an Artist Say?

Ever since the Roger Waters concert, I've been reading this: Analysis of The Wall (by Bret Urick) piece by piece. And it's utterly fascinating, much like The Heroes Journey captivates us writers. I think any writer here should read this. It's now in my personal arsenal of Master Storytelling.

In the FAQs section, someone asked if the analyst thought Pink Floyd meant to put all this symbolism into The Wall. In other words, the question was: Do artists really think all these things through so thoroughly?

My first answer as a writer is no, but with an inescapable caveat.

No because, when I write a story, I'm delving into someone else's head. I don't consciously insert symbols to send a message. Yet, they seem to magically appear. And the pace and tone of my writing often reflects the mood of the character at the time--exactly like a conversation would evolve. So, like Pink Floyd, my verbal "riffs" might ebb and swell with the emotions being experienced. But none of it is planned. I'm someone else in that moment in time, and the symbols they'd use spring naturally from their thoughts.

Until edits.

Now my answer is Yes, they mean it: Editing is"conscious" writing. It's adding or subtracting to mend or enrich. When I'm editing, I'm entirely tuned into how the character would speak, what metaphors he would use. And I often add those in this stage.

Through this "conscious" writing, the character grows, however, becomes depersonalized and evolves into the Universal. This is the moment when I want to touch more than one heart. I want to make this piece something many people can relate to. Not just my characters, and not just me.

I'm listening to The Wall as I write this, and I'm reminded for the millionth time how utterly brilliant it is. I mean, I just use words. They used words and matched the emotions in those words with music. How indescribably transcendent is that?

Of course, they're not the only ones who managed to do this. Most of history's great composers did it too, to some extent. But here the music is more than a supplemental underlining. Here it sometimes takes up where the words leave off, replaces them or belies them. You have to stay on your toes! Many rock artists have offered concept albums and the one that comes closest to this one in terms of universal truths and plain old kick-ass tunes, IMHO, is Jesus Christ Superstar.

Bret Urick claims that art is 50 percent artist, and 50 percent personal interpretation. I think it's more like 75 percent artist. Yes, much of what the artist does is unconscious, but it's the artist's unique mind that translates this unconsciousness to the page, or the canvas, or the instruments. If Roger Waters wrote his lyrics and then sang them to organgrinders music, it wouldn't have been quite the same. Savvy?

So, does an artist mean to put all this stuff in their work? No, they don't mean to. They simply can't help themselves. It's not a conscious act. It's the way the artist views the world, and it's wonderful interpreters like Bret who tell the rest of us what the artist meant. And, Yes. Some of it is conscious. But really, very little. More like a fine-tune than a complete overhaul.

That's my opine for the day and I'm sticking to it!

What do you think? Do you think art is entirely conscious, entirely subconscious, or somewhere in between. Do you even care what art is as long as it gets to you? *gg*

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