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Friday, November 16, 2012

Camille Paglia, Johnny Cash, and Johann Sebastian Bach

When I awoke yesterday morning, my wife strongly recommended that I listen to an interview with Camille Paglia, the controversial commentator on art, politics, and anything else that strikes her fancy, so I accepted the ear bud to her MP3 player and listened while in bed.  Among other comments, Paglia criticized art academics for their secular humanist scorn for anything religious.  Although herself a skeptic of traditional religion, Paglia maintains that religious fervor has produced some of the greatest art in history and to dismiss it is to lose something vital in Western Civilization.  I can't say that her words influenced how I had planned to spend my day, but when I returned home in the evening I reflected how my day contained significant doses of both art and religion.

After my morning geology class and lunch at the Student Union, I walked to the Clarice Smith Center and there I listened to a brief mid-day concert of Bach's NUN Komm, Der Heiden Heiland BWV 61 inspired by passages from The Gospel of Matthew and other parts of the New Testament.  "Music's only purpose should be the glory of God and the recreation of the human spirit"  Bach once said, and while I don't know if any Creator felt glorified, I felt my spirit uplifted by the voices and the instruments.

In the foreground below is one of the featured soloists.  That most of the performers were in their regular street clothes made the event casual, as if an interlude of beautiful music should be a normal part of the weekday.

For a version of this work click here

After that I proceeded to the campus Art Gallery for the new exhibit "What It Is, What It Was:  Music Video As Art."  When I was a young man in the photographic industry, there was general agreement that combining rock music with visual images was going to be big, but when MTV arrived I was disappointed with the quality of the short films being created for the music and haven't watched many of these videos over the years.  I never even got around to watching a widely praised one by one of my favorite singers, Johnny Cash, although it's been around now for ten years.  I got my chance yesterday because Johnny Cash's "Hurt" is one of the videos chosen to be projected wall size as part of the exhibit.  Ms. Paglia would have approved because Christian imagery is a major component and is appropriate because Cash was an intensely religious man.

To watch this video, click here

Radiohead, R.E.M., Tom Waits, Kanye West and other recording artists are also featured in the exhibit.  I spent about an hour there and plan to return.  It's art as far as I'm concerned and worth serious looks and listenings.

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