Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect

September 4, 2010

I’ve recently gotten into the music of The Decemberists. Genre-wise, Last.Fm classifies them as “indie/indie rock/indie pop/alternative”; my listening to them is thus partially a result of my having picked up Andrew Bird over the last year or so. But in a lot of ways, I think, the Decemberists are closer to the rest of my music library (i.e. various flavors of metal) than they are to Bird. I’ll try to make the argument for why, though again, since I’m not a musician, I don’t feel qualified to talk about musical style; I’ll primarily be looking at lyrics in this post.

While Bird concerns himself with the inherent limitations of science, language, and reason generally, the Decemberists are interested in much the same things as, say, Kamelot; their songs are love songs, for the most part, generally failed loves, and often have a strong historical or literary bent to them. Kamelot’s best work is their two-album-long interpretation of Goethe’s Faust; the Decemberists’s three “The Crane Wife” songs are twenty minutes of music about a traditional Japanese story, and “The Island–Come And See The Landlord’s Daughter–You’ll Not Feel The Drowning,” is from what I can tell about Caliban and Miranda from Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

The Decemberists also bear resemblances to Dream Theater, another prog metal band. Both are strangely literary for musicians; they constantly allude to poems and poets, and try to capture the emotional state of characters from stories. Dream Theater quotes Frost and James Joyce in some of the songs off Awake; the Decemberists seem to reference Coleridge in “The Island (&c)”, with lines like “The rivers roll down to a soundless sea,” and the song “The Legionnaire’s Lament” always reminds me of Auden’s “Roman Wall Blues,” though perhaps only because of the word “legion.” Songs like “Yankee Bayonet” and “When the War Came” are historical, not literary, but show a story-teller’s eye for history, just as Dream Theater has songs about AIDS (“Learning to Live”) and 9/11 (“Sacrificed Songs”).

These may seem like facile points, that I’m pointing out similarities of the sort that exist between any two musicians. But I don’t think that’s it. The main point is that the Decemberists, unlike Andrew Bird, are predominantly story-based. They’re not trying to capture a mood that one arrives at upon contemplating the world (which is what Bird does most of the time, I think), but rather to show how emotions work as one acts in the world — primarily in the most emotional of activities, falling in and out of love.

Anyay, this all brings me to the song I started this post wanting to talk about, “Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect.” I’ve been listening to this constantly over the last week or so. Though it’s a great song, I’m not here really to talk about how it functions musically; mostly I want to point out the verse in which the title appears.

And I am nothing of a builder
But here I dreamt I was an architect
And I built this balustrade
To keep you home, to keep you safe
From the outside world
But the angles and the corners
Even though my work is unparalleled
They never seemed to meet
This structure fell about our feet
And we were free to go

I find fascinating how similar, and yet different this is to Andrew Bird’s stuff. It’s using so much of the same language, the same ideas. It’s more abstract than most Decemberist songs; the reference to architecture makes it necessarily meta-artistic, and we have to think of language as architecture, as a building, words used to build and to cage. The line “even though my work is unparalleled” is the kind of mathematical pun I think Bird would love. But while Bird would use these words to talk about the failings of science when it tries to understand the world, the Decemberists use them to show a failed romance; even when dealing in abstract ideas, they come back to concrete human interactions — to life, not thought. An interesting juxtaposition.


Epic Metal Playlists

June 17, 2009

I recently fixed something with my computer so that I can once again scrobble (i.e. submit lists of listened-to tracks to, which will then give me musical suggestions based on my listening habits). In celebration, I suppose, I put together two playlists on my account, both of which point out phenomena I find interesting in the music I listen to – the tendency towards really long songs, songs which often tell a story and move from one “movement” to another, and the tendency to use a certain language specific to epic metal, by which I don’t mean singing in foreign languages (though this is seen as well), but rather using certain words and phrases much more often than they appear in ordinary English.

Epic Length Epic Metal – ‘Epic metal bands (i.e. viking, folk, power, symphonic, progressive metal bands) have a tendency to love really long songs. This is a playlist of all of the songs in my library over 8 minutes long. There’s a lot of them; they make up 51/828 songs in my popular music library (6%), and take up 8 hours, 52 minutes of the 66 hours, 23 minutes of music there (13%).’

Language of Epic Metal – ‘There are a certain set of words that appear over and over in the titles of songs I listen to – meaning, songs of the “epic metal” genre (viking, folk, power, symphonic, and progressive metal, to be precise). This isn’t surprising; every subculture develops its own distinct language, with words that carry special significance for its members. This is an exploration of those words. The playlist includes every song I have from these genres that contains in its title one or more of these often-appearing words (defined as appearing in >9 titles). The words: Dark, Dream, Land, Night, Song, Time.’

You probably can’t listen to the playlists on unless you’re a subscriber, but you can still look at the track listing and compare them with your own music library, if some of your musical tastes overlap with mine.

More on Music

August 6, 2008

It’s been a while since I have listed the bands I’m listening to on this blog.

Now, my taste in music remains the same as it has been for a while: ++epic metal. My favorite bands are still Rhapsody(of Fire), Blind Guardian, Kamelot, and TÝR. But I have started listening to some different bands recently too, and there’s a new TÝR album out as well, Land. So, without further ado, a list of bands I listen to that I haven’t described before:

  • DragonForce. You might have heard of this band; they’ve gained a sort of popularity due to the opening track of their album Inhuman Rampage, “Through the Fire and Flames”, being the final bonus track in the game “Guitar Hero III”. (I have actually played that game a few times, though I don’t own it, and beaten TTFAF on ‘medium’ difficulty; it is quite a fun song for that game, and I can see why they picked it.) Their strengths are that they have two really good lead guitarists, a quite good keyboardist, and a lyricist who is rather good at writing cool-sounding fantasy-themed lyrics even if they don’t really hang together into a coherent, well, anything.Their weaknesses are exactly what you would expect given those strengths; they rely too much, IMO, on long guitar solos. First of all, almost all of their songs are formatted like so: introduction with lyrics and guitars and/or keyboard, guitar/keyboard solo(s), short stretch of lyrics and guitars/keyboard again, a long series of guitar/keyboard solos, and an ending with lyrics and guitars/keyboard. Their songs tend not to have much of a sense of purpose – they have some lyrics, and then play around on their instruments – which they are quite skilled at, no doubt – and then they have some more lyrics and the song ends. Their songs tend to be 6-7 minutes long, but they could stop after 3-4 minutes and it would be just as good – they just keep going because they like to play around with their instruments. This results in the listener being really into the song for the first few minutes and then growing bored (since I find lyrics more interesting than instruments, this usually happens for me about when the singer stops singing). My second complaint is that their lyrics tend to not really make sense. This is somewhat intentional on their part; I remember reading somewhere that they take their music seriously but not their lyrics. Still, I would like to be able to tell, for example, whether the lyrics are from the point of view of the “bad guys” or the “good guys”, and sometimes I can’t even tell that much – not because the story seems to be morally ambiguous, but because you just can’t tell what’s going on, or if there is anything going on at all rather than just a bunch of cool-sounding fantasy lyrics that don’t mean anything.Still, for all my complaints I do like DragonForce, and listen to them a lot. My favorite song at the moment is “Soldiers of the Wasteland”.
  • Elvenking. You know it’s a strange band when the members refer to themselves as “Aydan”, “Damnagoras”, etc, rather than having actual names. claims they’re similar to Rhapsody(of Fire), but, really, they’re not – Rhapsody(of Fire) is much better. I don’t really know how to describe Elvenking; their songs somewhat irritate me, but I keep listening to them, and they do seem to have a sort of merit to them.
  • Ensiferum. This is one of the only bands I listen to that does “death growls”. I normally don’t like death growls, but they work well with Ensiferum, I think. This band sounds, I think, basically like a harsher, angrier version of Rhapsody – they have the bombastic guitars and keyboard, and a real strong fantasy sound, but the vocals are more aggressive. I rather like it; much better, anyway, than something like Amon Amarth which has the anger but not the power. They are rather similar to, but better than, I think,
  • Turisas. Both of these bands are Finnish, too; it must be something about how much power metal has come out of Finland that makes even the non-power metal bands (these two are viking metal) still sound something like power metal – the fast guitars and orchestral sound being key. Turisas uses death growls as well, in about equal proportion with normal vocals.
  • Falconer. This band is Swedish, and does not have a whole lot going for it, but not a whole lot against it either. It is somewhat generic power metal. Still, it is fairly good; they have some folk influences, a decent guitarist, and their lyrics are not bad at all. They also have an instrumental song on their album Northwind called “Black Tarn”; any use of the word “tarn” gets them points, in my opinion.

And, finally, a summary of the new TÝR album Land. It’s quite good, but not nearly as good as Ragnarok. I actually have some of the complaints I have with it as I have with DragonForce, even though their sounds are wildly different from each other – namely, that the songs on this album tend not to have much arc to them, and rather they just find a cool riff and noodle around with it for five minutes. Some of the songs don’t have this problem – the opening track, for instance, though it almost doesn’t count since half of it is just a poem being recited, not really music at all – but tragically, the two longest songs both do.

Now, I’m a big fan of long, >10 minute epic metal songs, but they have to be done correctly. Blind Guardian and Rhapsody both know how to do this; the longest BG song, “And Then There Was Silence”, about the fall of Troy, manages to have enough variation, what with tempo changes, dynamics changes, and sudden stops (about three minutes into the song everything goes almost silent for about five seconds), to remain interesting for the entire 14 minutes 3 seconds. The same with the two longest Rhapsody(of Fire) songs (they have seven over ten minutes, but only two are over fifteen minutes) – Rhapsody even  goes so far as to divide them into five sections for one and three for the other, and each section (they’re 3-6 minutes in length) each has its own feel to it. And it certainly helps that all three of these epic-length songs tell a story. With Ocean (ten minutes) and Land (sixteen minutes), though, there is no real story to be told, and so while the lyrics are cool, the music is cool, and the sound effects are cool (the sound of waves on the open ocean is used at the end of Land, and in Ocean, if I recall correctly), I come away from both of them just thinking, “these are just too long“… which is a real shame.

Also, only three and a half of the songs are in English (Ocean, Land, Hail to the Hammer, and part of Brennivin), and, as cool as it is to listen to songs in Faroese, Norwegian, and whatever else they throw at us,  I honestly prefer listening to songs in plain old English – it means I can understand what they’re saying and follow the storyline of the song. For me, lyrics tend to be more important than anything else (not to say that nothing else is important!), and so while I can handle having a few songs in other languages, I would have preferred to have a bit more English on the album.


March 20, 2008

Sometimes I find the sheer amount of music out there amazing.

Take metal, for example. It’s generally considered a somewhat fringe genre; not a whole lot of people listen to it. So you’d expect there to not be a whole helluvalot of metal bands. But, on the contrary, there are a great number. And they are quite diverse. The name “metal” is actually quite misleading; I don’t think it makes any sense to group everything called metal into one category. I would never, for example, listen to this voluntarily. I would rather listen to country or, even *shudder* rap. So what I listen to is really this one sub-genre of this one fringe genre. And yet there are dozens of bands that play the kind of music I listen to.

And I suspect this is true for a lot of other genres. I might see most kinds of rap as similar, but anyone who listens to rap probably draws a sharp distinction between their kind and the other kinds (I can’t give examples, I don’t know anything about rap). Same for electronic, country, folk, etc.

Cool as this sometimes seems, it seems somewhat disconcerting. If there’s nothing that everyone agrees to listen to, how can we say that anything has any kind of artistic merit? I tend to think some of the bands I listen to (not all of them, but some of them) are actually worth listening to, objectively – in other words, they are good art. But the same is doubtlessly true of a number of other people, all  of whom listen to different mutually exclusive genres. So how do we decide what is truly meritorious?  It seems like we no longer have people like the old classical composers, who everyone agrees are worthwhile. We just have a million different people singing various songs and no consensus on who’s better than whom.

I suppose it might be that, eventually, a few decades from now, there’ll be some idea of what current music is trash and what is decent. At least some more developed idea that what we have right now. But until then…

Love is the Only Truth (3/4)

November 26, 2007

Then there’s Kamelot, an American band led by Roy Khan on vocals and Thomas Youngblood on guitar, with the two of them co-writing the songs. (I’ll mention right off the bat that those two names are pretty awesome. Roy Khan’s actual name is Roy Khantatat, and Thomas Youngblood is the guy’s real name. I think that’s amazing, since those names seem like perfect power metal musician pseudonyms.)

Kamelot is in medium much more like Blind Guardian than Rhapsody of Fire. This isn’t surprising – I doubt anyone else could pull off what Rhapsody of Fire does. It’s just too weird. Most epic metal groups, Kamelot included, are better off with albums in which different tracks are about different things (though all of them epic), with a concept album or two thrown into the mix – but no concept albums so engrossed in their conception that they forget they’re albums at all.

I have four of Kamelot’s albums – Karma, Epica, The Black Halo, and Ghost Opera. Karma is roughly analogous to Blind Guardian’s earlier work, in that it is fairly standard power metal (and quite good power metal at that). Epica and The Black Halo are, taken together, roughly analogous to Nightfall in Middle-Earth; they’re concept albums loosely translating the story of Faust. Ghost Opera is roughly analogous to A Night at the Opera, with the basic idea being “these are various stories you would see if you went to the opera-house one night”.

Interestingly, both have tracks centered on the story of Pontius Pilate (“Up Through the Ashes” and “Sadly Sings Destiny”, respectively). I also wonder about the beliefs of the member of both of these bands – it seems to me Kamelot is inspired greatly by Catholicism, and I think at least one of them was probably raised Catholic, but they seem to have a mixed view of the Church. Blind Guardian is similar. I’m not sure what to make of that, but it’s certainly more interesting than Avantasia‘s blatant anti-Catholicism.

Anyway… despite these similarities, Kamelot’s work is not analagous to Blind Guardian’s in content. They never talk about mythopoeia directly, except in their most recent album Ghost Opera, and even there the idea is only implied. Blind Guardian might be best termed an “artist metal” band, in that they deal with artistry per se, and Rhapsody of Fire could be called a “myth metal” band, in that they don’t just talk about making myths, they do make myths, but Kamelot is probably best called a “philosophy metal” band.

Let’s start with Karma. The first track (with lyrics – “Regalis Apertura” is instrumental only), “Forever”, is about a guy wondering what has happened to his dead lover, and whether they will be reunited once he dies as well. “Wings of Despair” has to do with, well, despair, at the idea that everything is predestined. “The Spell” laments that the modern world is too scientific and isn’t magical enough (at least that’s my take on the lyrics). “Don’t You Cry” is a tribute to Thomas Youngblood’s deceased father, talking about how father and son are still connected. “Karma” has an evil king realizing he has lived an evil life, and wishing he could trade his karma with someone else. “The Light I Shine On You” – well, I don’t really understand it, but it seems to be about the power lovers have over each other. “Temples of Gold”, well, a simple love ballad. Then right back to the philosophy with “Across the Highlands” claiming that immortality would be torture, that the narrator “is dead if life itself is condemnation”. The final three tracks are the Elizabeth Bathory series, about the historical Hungarian countess who bathed in the blood of virgins because she believed it would give her eternal youth.

Ghost Opera is quite similar. “Rule the World”? Man’s fear of the Other. “Ghost Opera”? Perseverance through hardship, or something like that. “The Human Stain”? Life itself is perhaps an evil. “Bluecher”? The fate of love when facing death on the battlefield. “Love You to Death”? Same thing, sans the battlefield. “Up Through the Ashes”? Whether or not Jesus was the Christ. “Mourning Star”? War and the fear of death inspiring belief in God. “Silence of the Darkness”? Similar to “Rule the World”. “Anthem”? “What’s the miracle, if life itself is not? /Who am I to praise it’s worth / With a hymn?” Finally, “Edenecho” is about the despair felt at romantic love – destroyed.

So it seems to me that Kamelot has two main interests – the meaning of romantic love and death/afterlife/immortality. These seem to be the predominant themes in Karma and Ghost Opera, anyway.

Now let’s take a look at Epica and The Black Halo. First, note that they chose the legend of Doctor Faustus for their concept double-album. Like Blind Guardian’s choice of the Silmarillion for Nightfall in Middle-Earth, this tells quite a lot about how to view the two albums. The story of Faust, especially as Goethe tells it, is one of love versus pleasure versus eternal salvation. (If you don’t know the basic plot, you should look into it – it’s a fascinating story, and several great works of art have been inspired by it.)

All this is well and good, but… now that we know what Kamelot’s questions are, we should ask – what are their answers? The entirety of the Faust sequence is Faust searching for these answers, but in the final few tracks – “Nothing Ever Dies”, “Memento Mori”, and “Serenade” – we see what he arrives at. I think that Faust’s answers are ones Kamelot would agree with, though of course I can’t be sure.

In Nothing Ever Dies, Faust proclaims that

Love is the only truth
Pure as the well of youth
Until it breaks your heart

He follows this up with

And the final winter comes to us all
Life is treacherous
But you’re not the only who must pretend

We’re a second in time
We’re the last in the line
Of the prey that walks the earth
Good and evil combined

I am the god in my own history
The master of the game
I may believe if she would come to me
And whisper out my name

So – man is doomed to die, a beast, and yet a god, and he achieves this godhood through love. I find it fascinating that “love is the only truth”. This seems similar to Rhapsody of Fire’s emphasis on “pure love and great emotion”, but it is much stronger. Love is the only truth? And I ask – what is love? Romantic love? Since in the next song Faust talks about how “she (Helena) [will] come to me / and whisper out my name”, I think that is what he means.

Interestingly, Kamelot seems to place romantic love in opposition to sexual desire. Kamelot’s idea of love seems to be quite spiritual and ethereal. I like that in many ways, but I wonder if they don’t tend too much towards that extreme – after all, humans are physical, and the purpose of romantic love is in some sense procreation.

Onwards and upwards. The final track, Serenade, isn’t part of the Faust saga per se. It seems to be meant as a summation of the ideas discussed in the preceding two-dozen-or-so tracks. The chorus goes,

So bow down with me
Where summer fades into fall
And leave your hatchets of hate
Bow down with me
And sing the saddest of all
The song we all serenade

This saddest song that “we all serenade” is apparently the fact that, as humans, we are doomed to death. The idea seems to be that we ought not to fight each other, because death will come for us all anyway – instead, we ought to love. It sounds cliche, but it is a noble sentiment nonetheless.

I find it interesting that in the track “III Ways to Epica”, from Epica, Faust says that

Maybe God is the melody
We all serenade

Kamelot seems to be suggesting either that God is death, or that God is love – two very different ideas. It seems that death and love are deeply, perhaps irreversibly intertwined in Kamelot’s philosophy; perhaps the ambiguity is intentional.

Primordial Myth (2/4)

November 20, 2007

Another of my favorite epic metal groups is Rhapsody of Fire. Formerly known as just Rhapsody. That can be confusing at times. Anyway…

Rhapsody of fire is in some ways the opposite of Blind Guardian. They do not present themselves as bards telling a story. In fact, they do not really present their albums as stories at all – they present them as histories of true events. These aren’t just concept albums, they’re series of concept albums forming a single giant story arc – two, really, the Emerald Sword Saga and the Dark Secret Saga.

In a way, they do what Blind Guardian talks about doing. Blind Guardian’s songs talk about mythopoeia, but Rhapsody of Fire’s songs are mythopoeia to an extent that Blind Guardian never reaches, and I think precisely because they are completely un-self-conscious. Their art is not like literature, it is like the most primordial myth. And myths don’t have storytellers, they simply are.

So Rhapsody of Fire is in a certain sense less sophisticated, less complex, than any of the other groups here. The result of this is that you don’t view their works from the outside to appreciate the artistic skill that went into them. You are either completely immersed in them, or you find them absurd.

That said, even if they are in essence more myth than literature, they can still be analyzed for meaning. Mythopoeic worlds are hard, I think impossible, to create ‘without bias’ – i.e., without arguing at least implicitly for some view of the fundamental nature of the world. In any case, Rhapsody of Fire makes its views quite plainly known through the lyrics of the songs.

Their main focus is the eternal struggle between good and evil. This takes mostly the form of good guys versus bad guys. As band’s lyricist (and guitarist), Luca Turilli, has said,

Evil can be found everywhere. But it will never win as long as there are enough good people who fight against it.

But I think they go deeper than this simplistic us versus them. Consider the following passage, from Son of Pain.


The meaning of this may not be immediately obvious. The speaker is Dargor, who is half-demon, half-man. He has chosen to deny his demon nature and fight for the Light (represented here by the “thunder gods”… I’m not going to get into their cosmology, which I think is vaguely pantheistic). Though the Warrior of Ice is the main character of the Emerald Sword Saga, he does not in the end turn out to be the main character; that would be Dargor. This same Dargor reappears in the Dark Secret Saga. Dargor is indeed half-man half-demon, but he is in many ways the most human character in the sagas. He shows that when Luca Turilli says “evil can be found everywhere”, he means even in the hearts of good men. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said,

 If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, an it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

But, then… what is meant by good and evil?

I think we can see Rhapsody of Fire’s answer to this in what happens to be my favorite song, “Silent Dream”:



Following the “pure love and great emotion” is the good. The evil characters in the sagas are truly evil – they are for the most part demons. One is named “Queen of the Dark Horizons”. The main enemy is Kron, the War God. Their division between good and evil is quite simple. That which is evil is abhorrent, disgusting, focused on eliminating all life from the universe. That which is good loves life. I don’t think this simplicity is necessarily bad, though I disagree with the implied pantheism.

Incidentally, it’s kind of ironic that I like them, since in many ways I distrust emotions and would prefer to be a completely rational creature. I think I like them because what they believe is what I wish I could believe.

Powerful Themes (1/4)

November 15, 2007

I’ve mentioned before that I have, in essence, four favorite bands. There’s Blind Guardian, whose magnus opus Nightfall in Middle-Earth tells the story of the Silmarillion; then Rhapsody (of Fire), who sing of the Enchanted Lands; of course Kamelot, the only American band I really like; and finally Týr, who hail from of all places the Faroe Islands.

These four artists are in some ways quite similar. They all, except Týr, play a style of music known as power metal (though all in quite different ways); Týr plays what I think is a related style, viking metal. (Incidentally, all of them blur at least somewhat the lines the demarcate their genre – I don’t think you can be a great band if you view genre definitions as unbreakable.) It seems to me, however, that though these groups are quite similar in style, their subject matter differs greatly.

This post will be about Blind Guardian.

This German band portrays itself as a group of wandering bards, singing tales to lighten the hearts of those that hear. This fits perfectly with their band’s theme, which I postulate is that of mythopoeia.

Many of their songs – “Imaginations from the Other Side”, “The Bard’s Tale”, “Skalds and Shadows”, etcetera – are about this very idea. Take these lines from the last of those:

Just hand me my harp
And this night
Turns into myth
Nothing seems real
You soon will feel
The World we live in
Is another skald’s
Dream in the shadows

Not all of their songs are about this directly – NiME itself is entirely a concept album, after all – but they all reflect this sentiment. All of the songs are, I think it could be said, self-consciously artistic; they are not just acts of mythopoeia, they are about acts of mythopoeia. They are about, though often indirectly, art – about telling stories.

Take “A Past and Future Secret”, about the King Arthur legend. A minute or so in, you hear this chorus:

My song of the end
I had seen it in my dreams

And take that concept album NiME that supposedly had no self-reference. First of all, they chose as the basis for their concept album the Silmarillion, written by the master of mythopoeia, Tolkien. Second, the album is constructed so that every actual song has an “interlude” to go with it – not really a song, just a short dialogue or somesuch to bring the sotry along. Track 5 is “The Minstrel”, and in it Fingolfin says,

So I stand still
In front of the crowd
Excited faces
Whar will be next?
I still don’t have a clue

And so on and so forth.

Finally, there’s the fact that their latest two albums are titled “A Night at the Opera and “A Twist in the Myth”. The significance of that should be obvious.

Now, what do I make of this?

Clearly I think they do a good job with it. After all, they’re one of my favorite bands. I have many of the same concerns, obsessed as I am with writings random stories and Wesnoth/Orbivm campaigns and trying to make them into actual art not just amusement.

But still, I wonder – is the meta-ness of this all really a good thing? If the best art is about making art, then how is art actually about anything? It can be taken to the extreme, and it then becomes too self-referential. If there’s nothing to ground the art it has no value.

So Blind Guardian’s meta-art seems to me to be, in a way, dodging the question. They should be singing about something else – what, I’m not sure exactly. And they do, much of the time. The problem is that the subtext is always “what does this mean for the bard and his audience?” That might not be a problem, but it strikes me as somehow wrong.

Also, if art ought not to be about art… it seems to imply that art is not the highest calling. That there are better things to do with your time than what the artist does. In which case, why should the artist bother? I find that a rather depressing thought. I know intellectually that art isn’t the most important thing we can do in this life, but it is very hard to motivate yourself to make art if you don’t have that illusion to some extent. At least it seems like that to me sometimes.

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