Before the Music Dies at the Audis Husar Gallery

But is it Art??

That timeless phrase could easily have served as the prevailing theme Saturday night at the Audis Husar Fine Art Gallery in Beverly Hills where art lovers convened to see a variety of works by local artist Robert Sturman, Steven Burtch, British Pop artist Derek Boshier, and others.  The assemblage of eclectic pieces-and a glass of wine-deftly prodded the patrons to consider the "But is it art?" question shortly before heading into the theater where a showing of Andrew Shapter's "Before the Music Dies" reminded them how the almighty dollar has irredeemably altered what passes for art, and what is allowed to pass for art.

Rock Art

If you can accept the notion that one man's meat is another man's poison, then it's easy to embrace a work of art despite the critic's unrelenting swipe, or look the other way when a piece you find deplorable or uninteresting is publicly lauded as important or ground-breaking.  Unfortunately, it oftentimes seems that those artists that have achieved a certain level of success or notoriety are the ones who feel they get to decide what art is and what it is not.

The Lizard King!!

Ironically, this is the antithesis of the message "Before the Music Dies" is trying to send.   Shapter's movie is replete with quotes from musician's decrying the lack of originality and heart-felt expression in the industry today.  The producers, agents, and monopolistic conglomerates are portrayed as the evil empire, manufacturing boy bands and Britney Spears types, while the musicians are the all-knowing arbiters of what passes for talent. 

Jazz musician Branford Marsalis, in decrying the seek fame and get-rich-quick mentality of today's young artists says, "It works as long as everyone's winking at the same time."  A clever and insightful comment to be sure, but why is it automatically assumed that anything the public is willing to buy must be dreck?  There is certainly an undue amount of preening and packaging that goes into marketing the majority of today's music stars.  Beauty sells; and the quality of music, as a result, suffers.  This is how it's always been.  Nevertheless, we have to allow the public sentiment to breathe, as detestable as many of us find it.

Works by Derek Boshier

Erykah Badu laments that, "Video killed the radio star…it used to be you could be ugly as a motherfucker and still rock."  But when is the last time you heard a major recording star turning down an opportunity to produce a video?  The Woodstock generation has sold its collective soul to sell cars and hamburgers, but they're quick to pillory the money-grabbing sleaze merchants that made it possible for them to live in their gated mansions. 

It would seem that everyone is principled as long as he's getting paid.  But money is, and always will be, what drives everything.  Just as focus groups vote and decide how a movie ending will be realized (the film industry's dark secret), playlists will decide who the next rock and roll star will be.  So when Eric Clapton and Dave Matthews bewail that young talents have no opportunity to be discovered, I can only reply, "Welcome to the real world." 

Have guitar, will travel


Only NBA and NFL prospects are paid for their "upside," and most forms of entertainment have been whored out to flash something shiny to the masses…witness sporting events with giveaways and sausage races…anything but the game itself.  Yet the music world seems to think it's above such bottom-line mentality.  Several musicians in "Before the Music Dies" complain that artists aren't nurtured until their music gains mass appeal.  I sympathize, and to a large extent agree, but no one nurtured me until I mastered Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3.  So you move on and find satisfaction writing pieces for online magazines.  In the end, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the only way to keep score is by counting CD's sold.

But is it Art?

"Before the Music Dies" is a noble undertaking, but ultimately comes across as so much whining.  If it's really the art that matters, why do so many feel unfulfilled without the approbation of fame and riches? 

"It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child."—Pablo Picasso     

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