Friday, August 18, 2006

Aura of Art: The Benjamin Starship

I was thinking about Walter Benjamin's "Aura of Art" concept, or my misinterpretation of it, in relation to Advancement. My simple understanding of his idea is that a work of art takes on elements outside itself (reputation, timing, etc.) until it is eventually eclipsed by those elements. For instance, it is nearly impossible to tell anymore whether Picasso was really as good as he is supposed to be because he's "Picasso." I'm sure there's more to it, and surely someone would say that I've completely missed the point (I know that the idea goes into how the availability of reproductions affects the aura, but that's when Marx takes over, and if you want to talk about Chairman Marx, don't you know you can't me out). But let's take if for granted that what I'm talking about does occur. What does that have to do with Advancement?

The Advanced Theory came about to counteract the other side of the aura: People know that an artist has only so many good years in him, so his later stuff must be bad. In other words, the artist's aura works against him. What the theory says is that an Advanced Artist's later work must be good because his earlier work is so great and he deserves the benefit of the doubt.

The Advanced Listener can take this a step forward and say that any work of art can be good because liking everything is superior to liking just some things using arbitrary criteria. What this is all leading up to is that everyone agrees that "We Built This City on Rock and Roll" is the worst song ever recorded, but I'm not so sure anyone's actually listened to it. The thing is, the production is dated (but so is White Light/White Heat, the difference being everyone likes the date), but the song's not so bad if you give it a chance. So the next time it comes on, ignore the "worst song ever" aura (otherwise known as the hoopla) and enjoy it.


Anonymous said...

Is it really necessary to endure torture to become an Advanced Listener?

Jason Hartley said...

Not necessarily.

Jon Black and Britt Bergman said...

When I was a teenager I really and truly like the song "We Built This City on Rock and Roll" by Jefferson Starship. Or Starship. Starplane? Anyway, I liked it overtly and without the tinge of amusement I have now, the perverse pleasure I get from my friends' blatant disgust when I say I still like the song. Oh yes, I do still like it.

(I like to think that San Francisco is the city they built, but that's just me.)


Jason Hartley said...

That makes two of us, I guess.

Mike said...

I was going to write a smarmy comment about how badly you are abusing your Theory Creator status, but then I looked up the lyrics and noticed the songwriters were Bernie Taupin, Martin Page, Dennis Lambert, and Peter Wolf. What I wouldn't give to have been a fly on the wall when the four of them were working together. Possibly the epitome of Advancement.

Jason Hartley said...

I'm glad you didn't send a wrecking ball into my guitar before doing your research!