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The post-college room cleaning has begun. Here are the first fruits. I have no idea where this came from. More to come soon. 


All the time we spent in bed
Counting miles before we said
Fall in love and fall apart
Things will end before they start

Sleeping on Lake Michigan
Factories and marching bands
Lose our clothes in summer time
Lose ourselves to lose our minds
In the summer heat, I might.

(Sufjan Stevens)



I am quickly realizing both in evaluating my own aesthetic values, and in discussing those values with others, that the worth of pure aesthetics in artistic work is a matter of some debate. The argument is particularly potent in works that contain narrative: film, literature etc.—"good graphics don't make a good movie," or (albeit less frequently) "the prose were beautiful, but that's not enough to make a good book."

While I agree that the function of narrative in film or literature is a vital part of making a consummate work of art, I think it is a mistake to require a Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk for every movie or book written. Furthermore, I submit that music, the visual arts, and poetry are more often than not purely aesthetic forms (with many notable exceptions).

Is not the Mona Lisa valued for its beauty, rather than its subject? Do we not value the pure emotional expressionism of Rothko for the same reason we value the abstract splashes of color in the tone poems of Debussy? Should we feel shame for giving ourselves over to pure emotion, and forsaking the story, the meaning, the narrative? Is not the great beauty of art that it cannot be explained by narrative?

I often find the subjects of paintings to be uninteresting, vague, stupid, or irrelevant, despite the fact that they were painted with the purpose of conveying that very information (who really cares what Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo looked like?). I often find the programmatic subjects of musical compositions to be riddled with the same flaws. But does that diminish the beauty of the work?

A friend of mine said recently, "Pretty things only hold for so long," but I submit that for many things, particularly artistic things, the prettiness is the only thing that has allowed them to endure.