Appalachian Spring is playing on the radio. This is a gorgeous classical piece that, being a dancer, is true to my heart. It was composed by Aaron Copland and performed by Martha Graham and her dancers back in the 40’s, and was quite the pioneer piece to its modern audience.
I remember hearing an interview with Aaron Copeland where he said that he would laugh because his audience members would approach him to compliment him on composing a piece which so perfectly depicted Springtime in Appalachia. He laughed because he knew that he and Martha had picked the title at random after his piece and Martha’s ballet was already completed.
That’s the funny thing about creating art…
Is the audience correct to judge what content they take from the piece, or is the artist correct? Although the artist corners and defines a concept within their piece, I believe the artist does not have full awareness of what they have created, and that the audience helps define what was created. In this scenario, the artist really cannot have the final say on what the piece is about.
When I was a performance artist, we would create movement to silence, layer music on top of the movement, then perhaps add the spoken voice and costume. What exactly were we creating? I saw each piece as a set texture of experience in time. The outcomes were beautiful, to be sure, and went beyond the scope of what we, the artist, could fully understand. We learned from our own pieces after they were made. We learned right along with the audience. That’s why after an artist creates a piece, there is a time of basking in this beautiful creation, larger than the artist. The artist always wants to talk about the piece with a trusted friend, to discuss his/her perception of the piece, and see if it matches the artist’s. Both friend and artist exchange wonder and awe and both grow their minds (and maybe even blow their minds!) on the manifestation of concepts that may have been quite hidden during the making of it.
Whether it be one medium or many, the piece is larger than the artist, and the artist should recognize, that although he/she was the creator, he/she was certainly not the source. If the artist were the source, why would it be so fascinating to them? I think the fact that art is endlessly fascinating proves that the source is from a mind larger than our own.
God’s mind is the source- but the artist’s mind and soul shapes it. The process of channeling God’s mind is the artist’s prerogative and delight, which explains why artist put up with starving for their craft!
The craft of the artist is in the shaping of a concept into a manifested form, and using life’s forms in new ways to open the viewer’s eyes. Ah, but the artist’s eyes get opened too. So, Mr. Copland, you have truly composed a glorious piece, but if the audience members say it’s Springtime in Appalachia, so be it.