READING THIS ARTICLE BY JOHN PODHORETZ about the new Broadway musicals also makes me think of the challenges of the contemporary music world:
Is there a recording artist at present whose new album might elicit the sort of tingling expectancy that a new Paul Simon or Talking Heads record would have in its day? For those with more highbrow tastes, is there a classical artist whose participation in a new recording of Wagner’s Ring cycle, or a new interpretation of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, might be the talk of the town?
I remember when, in the early 1980s, Americans for whom the visual arts were profoundly important could talk of little else than the German monumentalist painter Anselm Kiefer—and this at a time when it was simply taken for granted that a cultured person was familiar with the works of the Abstract Expressionists and the post-modernists that followed them. To put it most plainly: How many living painters are household names the way Jackson Pollock was? The answer, of course, is that there isn’t a one.
That’s a pretty accurate take. Podhoretz doesn’t blame the audiences, but the artists:
But there is something deeply depressing in the fact that, increasingly, the arts seem to be losing their power to capture our attention. And that is because they no longer hold out the hope that, by providing us an intellectual and emotional guide map, they can help sate our aesthetic hunger—the hunger we all have to understand our own experiences and lives by seeing things anew through the eyes of others.