Apparently, there was a time when artists were able to do as they like and play with the rules imposed by the art and arts festival market, to the point where they forgot that what we had achieved in terms of artistic freedom had not just fallen into our laps. If some of the benefits Postmodernism brought opened the floodgates to this anything-goes mentality, the downside to this quite Faustian pact was a kind of dissipation of heritage. For the most part, the inevitable influences that we might detect here or notice there in the work of this or that artist no longer reach down to the roots. The art of substitution and eclecticism has won the day, even in terms of the veneer more deeply attributed by some to provenance in the register of style. The fast-fashion effect of a temporality reduced to the yardstick of commercial criteria, accentuating the rhythm of loss in our civilization, is reflected in our lifestyles with ever more superficial relationships, in which the concept of signing up to something no longer seems to count, or at least not for more than a few seasons.
Faced with the loss of our own bearings, artists still seem to be demonstrating too much allegiance. Is a sense of responsibility a thing of the past? Is it so very outmoded to dare advance the notion of meaning in art again? Is the imperative for a return to generosity, via an audacious subscription to something that articulates beauty (but not without first spanning it across a minefield of tensions, let’s say as a dialectical beauty), the sole prerogative of conservatism?
A new awareness has gained ground in some areas of our lives through our food and our patterns of consumption. That much-vaunted environmental connection. But this desire to take ownership of the present in the light of both the future and the past too rarely appears to stir the majority of artists, whose output – insofar as I have access to it – is sadly overly prone to entertainment, albeit of a high level and even when it requires acrobatic agility.
A craft, in the sense of a profession, can be taught and learned. With competition accelerating more dramatically than ever, due to the shrinkage of performance space while more and more artists seek a career, the remnants of value derived from a heritage rooted in humanism are vanishing. No one decides to study composition to find out who they are and what they might have to say but rather, or even exclusively, to acquire a profession and strategic professional opportunities. A sphere of celebrity associated with show business has shifted, in the domain of classical music too, toward a stockpile in what – based on other criteria – is known as »serious« or »art« music. This inflation of the craft always goes hand in hand with a deflation of artistic and critical meaning.
One thread of New Music is deconstructing values via recourse, for example, to gratuitous or barbaric saturation. Another by mixing many sources without adopting a clearer stance than that of a so-called freedom of appropriation. Yet another favors the concept to the detriment of sound worthy of the phenomenon of acoustic interest. We have a responsibility to deliver, to produce, to offer quality and substance. The current state of our world and of our civilization should help us to realize as much.
Undoubtedly, this too will pass, but I feel a pressing need to return to certain basics that can be seen at every level of our civilization, via the media and in our own lives, to be in a state of evident deterioration.
How can we achieve this in art? As far as I am concerned, it is why, in my work as a composer, I prefer resorting to fragility and a slower pace, from a perspective opposed to those spectacular, performative elements that have increasingly prevailed, given the unhealthy acceleration associated with an information overdrive that impedes our connection with depth. How can we continue today to serve a system that increasingly exploits culture as a tool to move the masses and hence to avoid a relationship of intimacy and closeness with individuals that might encourage their awareness of urgent and fundamental questions? Art has had its time to play and to play to the gallery. Isn’t it time to revert to adopting some kind of a position, undoubtedly more adult, in the spirit of the responsibility we have in our role as transmitters? There is no time left to lose. The state of our world and the return of these barbaric times directs us, certainly not to abandon the playful drive which is the cradle of art, but to redirect it toward our duty of quality and depth in what we put out there in the world and for the world.
Translated by Katherine Vanovitch (German to English).