I've believed for the last few times in the impermanence of art, most specifically temporal arts such as music, theater, cinema, and dance. These arts happen through time (the argument for, say, literature, is that exists somewhat out of time. however, the following argument still pertains, in my opinion.) All art exists only in its performance/observance. That is to a say, music is not the score, but the performance, theater is not the book, but the performance. for those of more lasting quality without change; cinema, literature, poetry, visual art (though there is a sense of performance to poetry, it can exist without it, unlike music); it is in the moment of observance. In other words, the artwork may exist all the time, but it is not a work of art until viewed. It seems like an archaic view, something not existing till you see it, but there's a lot of philosophers going in this direction now. The world only exists through observation and since we make our own realities from this observation, then something cannot truly exist until we experience it. A bit of a funky theory, but i like.
this is always a good discussion point, the "what is art?" question and all the little bits that go into defining it. But what of the main question? Why do we still listen to Brahms, as, specifically, more than just a "historical" listening?
This all seems to lead back to another burning question: is my degree nothing more than a specialized history degree? is anything i do, including writing "new" music, nothing more than keeping past traditions alive? Am i the same as someone doing a civil war reenactment?
I'd like to think that we listen to Brahms because of some deep emotional attachment. But then, this leads into a whole new can of worms: the issue of emotion and music. I'm not going to touch that one with a ten foot laser pole. Still, is there a lasting quality that makes Brahms still somewhat "popular" with a segment of our society, even outside the music clique?
Is it the sweeping melodies? is it the sense of invention? i doubt it's his orchestration. his chamber works are much stronger to me. wait, hold on, coffee time...
mmm, there is something sublime about drinking coffee out of a mug you threw yourself...anyway
I've done this music thing for a while. historically i understand Brahms relevancy. At this point i would like to point out that you could insert ANY composer/musician/art form that is currently active for Brahms.
What is it about past traditions that we must keep alive? I'd like to think of it not as just "tradition." I'm a bit of a...well...the word escapes me, but i don't buy into tradition. My traditions are made in my own time (like composition and coffee at Muddy's) and are thrown out as i adapt (such as homework and cigarettes at China Buffet in Greencastle). I eat turkey at Thanksgiving, not so much out of tradition, but because i LOVE TURKEY and i can usually get a free one during that time due to spending enough money on groceries. And i'll have the time off to actually prepare it. Trust me, if i could roast an entire turkey (at least a breast) even faster (say, 30 minutes to an hour) and they were available year round (fresh ones. the frozen guys just don't do it for me.) i would eat turkey more often. I LOVE TURKEY
anyway, enough about my turkey gripes. Perhaps the answer to this is simple: Some people do feel some sort of attachment to this music. It doesn't take many. Some people actually enjoy listening to his symphonies. Do we need a deeper reason? well, if you MUST have more of a reason, then toss in the historical significance, a bit of "educating the masses to the Western heritage," maybe some "it improves cognitive function," or some other pseudo-science reason.
All this logic and philosophy leads to the first, simple answer. I'm not even sure i'm going to post this now, since i ran a circle, ended up with the easy answer, and am calling it a day.
Someone, multiple someones, like Brahms. Like him enough to buy a CD, go to the symphony, and clap and yell "Bravo!"
that's enough to make it timeless, right? we may only truly experience art in the moment, but the memory is also strong. We can remember, reproduce in our minds, that big climax to Variations on a theme by Haydn, hear the massive doublings and hear the strings cascading, then rising again to end the piece.
There is no deep reason to me. I dont like Brahms symphonies, so i question the relevancy. But Brahms doesn't exist just for me. The music exists for everyone.
at least Brahms wrote music people continue to like 110 years after his death.