I’m often told that my taste in music is “out there.” I happen to enjoy a lot of modern experimental music, ranging from sacred minimalist composers such as Arvo Part to alternative electronica, along with everything in between. People are bewildered: how can you listen to that? It’s not really music. It’s too different.
It’s just weird. That’s when I try to remind such critics that cultural darlings like Beethoven and The Beatles were labeled in exactly the same way at various points in their careers. They broke with established forms and did things differently, and it took time to establish the credibility of their novel contributions.
The same, I’ve noticed, is true in the visual arts. I really don’t know all that much about painting; I’ve never picked up a paintbrush in my life.
All I can really claim are a few good art history courses in high school and the good fortune to have visited some of the world’s greatest
museums in London, New York, Paris and Chicago. One thing I do know, though, is that when Michelangelo first painted “The Last Judgment,” it caused a furor for being too “unusual”
and breaking with conventional decorum. Now, Michelangelo is pretty securely anchored in the establishment, recognized as a treasure of world culture. Of course, not all Renaissance art was Michelangelo’s. Some of it — maybe most of it — had to have been pretty “mediocre.” Such is the nature of human talent. The cream rises to the top, and we look back and only see the
geniuses, lamenting how they are missing today. In contrast, we see a full range of abilities displayed among modern artists. Some are great, some are just good, some are pretty awful They are all there for us to see. Yet just because something is new and potentially controversial is not sufficient reason to dismiss it and all of its kind.
Take a chance on something new. Dare to voice a positive opinion of a play, book, movie, sculpture or song that pushes the envelope in some particular way. You never know — even if you come under fire, you may just be vindicated 500 years from now.
Michael Petrany is a senior philosophy and biology major from Huntington, WV.