Music and meaning (!?)
Immensely refreshing to read Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s signal remark about ’The Gates’ (their massive new installation in Central Park) -- namely, that it is solely, simply a work of art. The artists are clear that the work contains no political resonance, it is not a comment on anything other than itself; and its reason for being is that they envisioned its existence (and in this precise space) and worked assiduously to realize their specific vision.
For me, those delicious declarations are the most radical, and most pure, aspect of the work. The declarations assert that this piece needs no ‘barnacles’ of explication, speculation nor attributions of spurious relevance. ‘The Gates’ requires no ‘program note’ nor critics’ follow-after remarks presumably working to give it heft, or meaning.
(Note too how musical an idea ‘The Gates’ is: it too is an artwork in time. It remains in existence only for a discrete period; after that point, if you want to experience it, you’ll either need to ‘perform’ it afresh [re-erect it], or catch it in reflection [via drawings, etc.] -- similar to recordings, which after all only give us one rendition of the musical work.)
And the declarations connect ‘The Gates’ with Archibald MacLeish’s key comment in his poem, “Ars Poetica”, a remark I’ve always loved: “A poem need not mean / Just be.”
The same goes for music! Every once in a while we should clean off those barnacles: shush the commentators, jettison the program notes (especially when much of what they do is rather tediously map the piece we’re about to experience) -- get out there and just listen.
If the work all on its own doesn’t make its case, then everything else is beside the point.