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Monday, November 29, 2004

Mozart on the Barbie

I just finished watching with my little daughter the latest computer graphic masterpiece of the modern cinema: 'The Princess and the Pauper', starring 'Barbie'. This insipid plastic doll, which bears an uncanny resemblance to Paris Hilton, has thanks to modern technology supplanted real life actresses, though I wince imagining Hillary Duff in the role. This movie was more than a Barbie play, it was a Barbie musical. Fetching music, if of course you like musical tapwater. Nonetheless, it's stuff for the ages, between the ages four and eight that is.

A ridiculous legacy perhaps to be known as a composer for such cartoonish tripe, but that's par for the course when genius has to be married with other inspirations pulled from the bottom drawer. Discounting whether Barbie music ever could aspire to greatness, it is a truism that works of genius generally serve humble or vulgar ends. In other words, without a view to an imminent or even distant payday, creativity most assuredly will not find a way.

A persistent illusion among psychologists is that creation needs motives that well up pure and sparkling from within, like spring water. Get rid of all those bad extrinsic motivators (i.e., the fast buck), and the Mozart, Shakespeare, or Michelangelo within us will break free. Problem is, Mozart generally composed on commission, Shakespeare wrote for a fickle, women ogling, nut cracking audience that paid the bills, and Michelangelo was not in the ceiling painting business until the Pope made the call. The fact is, genius needs vulgar motives to survive. The trick is to get the vulgar masses to be interested enough to demand a higher standard of excellence in the stuff they buy.

But what's excellence but in the eye of the beholder? As a member of the vulgar masses who inadvertently voted for the Barbie operetta, perhaps I've given an unwitting vote for mediocrity, but not in the eyes of my four year old daughter, where Barbie is the Renaissance personified. To which I must admit, she is correct.

1 comment:

A.J. Stanson said...

This is tremendous stuff. Unfortunately, I have nothing to add to it. For now.