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Thread: Does your knowledge of an artists politics affect your appreciation of thier music?

  1. #1

    Default Does your knowledge of an artists politics affect your appreciation of thier music?

    Knowing what we do about Morrisseys politics, which appears to be towards the nationalistic and with regards to animal rights, certainly quite militant, and being myself to the left, I would expect to find my enthuiasm for his music to wane. But this does not appear to have occured. I seem to have separated the man and his music.
    But this is not always the case.
    To take an obvious example, Wagner and Richard Strauss are still disliked by many due to their percieved or actual anti-semitism.
    We are used to artists on the whole having liberal politics. Should we care? Would we still love Moz if he was an out and out nazi (as a previous thread has suggested)? For myself, I guess this would tip the balance. But how can a piece of information like that that stop you liking a piece of music?
    And why stop at politics, surley personal morality is as important. Frank Sinatra was involved with gangsters (unlike Moz who only sings about them) but this doesn't effect his stature.
    I'm not sure where this is going but hopefully you lot will contribute some pertinent thoughts.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Raphael Lambach's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does your knowledge of an artists politics affect your appreciation of thier musi

    Not exactly.
    But I admit when I did hear Panic for the first time I was excited by the fact of Morrissey hate disco music....it became my "life theme".
    Of course, I couldn't listen Marilyn Manso, for instance, 'cause I hate his attitudes.
    "Those who murder language are not pure" - Camus

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  3. #3

    Default Re: Does your knowledge of an artists politics affect your appreciation of thier musi

    Quote Originally Posted by Raphael Lambach View Post
    Not exactly.
    But I admit when I did hear Panic for the first time I was excited by the fact of Morrissey hate disco music....it became my "life theme".
    Of course, I couldn't listen Marilyn Manso, for instance, 'cause I hate his attitudes.
    Good point Raphael. Liking an artists politics can also lead one to liking the music.
    Although I'm afraid it's never worked with me, for example Billy Bragg and The Communards. Love the politics (and the artists as people) but can't stand the music.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Does your knowledge of an artists politics affect your appreciation of thier musi

    Quote Originally Posted by Raphael Lambach View Post
    Of course, I couldn't listen Marilyn Manso, for instance, 'cause I hate his attitudes.
    That's interesting. I can't stand his music but I think he has a fucking great attitude. Plus, he is a great, honest interviewee and has a fantastic sense of humor to boot. I just wish hid music had the same feeling.
    This site is a complete piece of crap. Why do I keep coming back? I'm related to GG Allin - I make shit, I see shit, I eat shit.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Does your knowledge of an artists politics affect your appreciation of thier musi

    Of course not. Despite the fact that they want to be taken seriously politically even though for the most part they detest politicians - and keeping in mind the fact that there are a good handful who DO know what they're talking about - they're still artists. I feel as though that is their primary function. Sure, they can provide social commentary, but most of the time that is protocol for their art. Come to think of it, probably all of the time. But in the case of Morrissey, for example, I'm American and I can't think of any tangible reason to hate the Queen other than the fact that to think that the whole idea is sort of obsolete. It doesn't particularly effect me.

  6. #6
    Senior Member the_kaz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does your knowledge of an artists politics affect your appreciation of thier musi

    Absolutely not. An artists' politics is their own business, and it does nothing whatsoever to diminish the quality of their work. If, for instance, Michael Jackson was found to be guilty beyond any reasonable doubt of child molestation, it wouldn't change my appreciation of his music at all, though it would certainly change my appreciation of the man. And that's regarding a child molester. Having nationalist political leanings isn't morally reprehensible, nor is it a crime.

    If, however, somebody uses their art to push a political viewpoint that I don't agree with, then it would become far harder to separate the artist from his politics (as his politics become part of the art). So, until Morrissey starts writing white power anthems, I don't think I'll ever have to worry about that. That said, though, it would do nothing to change my opinion of his non-white power songs.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Does your knowledge of an artists politics affect your appreciation of thier musi

    Thanks Kaz and Mcrickson. I think you're right to say that Morrisseys politics are nowhere near objectionable enough to make a difference but I'm not as convinced as you are that the moral/political stance of an artist can be as completely separate from their muse as you suggest.
    I know it may be ridiculous to use such an extreme as Hitler, but see it as a reference point. Can you look at the young Adolf's watercolours without thinking about the mind that produced them?
    In the UK in the '70 and 80's there were a crop of far right punk groups. They were appalling.
    But I'm missing the point. Take this hypothetical situation: You hear 2 pieces of music and are told one was produced by a child molester and the other by a very nice chap indeed. Surely we all would try to figure out which was which so we would know which one to like rather than simply judge them on their own merits. Am I terribly misguided here?

  8. #8

    Default Re: Does your knowledge of an artists politics affect your appreciation of thier musi

    Quote Originally Posted by Peterb View Post
    I know it may be ridiculous to use such an extreme as Hitler, but see it as a reference point. Can you look at the young Adolf's watercolours without thinking about the mind that produced them?
    Of course. Hitler had a very exceptional analytical mind. Just because his legacy is perhaps one of the most infamous in human history doesn't mean that value can't be found in his art. On the contrary, the situation actually becomes more intriguing - psychology and all that jazz.

    Quote Originally Posted by Peterb View Post
    In the UK in the '70 and 80's there were a crop of far right punk groups. They were appalling.
    But I'm missing the point. Take this hypothetical situation: You hear 2 pieces of music and are told one was produced by a child molester and the other by a very nice chap indeed. Surely we all would try to figure out which was which so we would know which one to like rather than simply judge them on their own merits. Am I terribly misguided here?
    I have no idea why an analogy to Christianity popped into my head just now, as I'm not too fond of it as a whole, but for the sake of example, I think that if every person in the world would judged Jesus Christ solely upon hearing that he healed the sick and resurrected the dead, every person in the world would be Christian. But there was more to the whole mythos of Jesus - there was a politics in his poetry and vice versa. Obviously, I'm not saying that this is the reason there are different religions, but I am saying that, for instance, there would be a lot less gay rights supporters who are atheists if they only had to swallow the notion that Jesus performed miracles. Art and action are separate. Art can be an action (early punk rock), and action can be an art (Lady Gaga), but if you criticize the two together, I feel as though you'll find yourself judging people based on non sequiturs.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Does your knowledge of an artists politics affect your appreciation of thier musi

    Why is it so terribly important to be able to like the artist as an individual? Great things are sometimes made by thoroughly objectionable people, it's always been like that.

    As for politics, that's not something you can neccessarily ignore, if it enters into the music rather than just the artist's personal life. But it doesn't have to be about agreement. You can admire something for its commitment or idealism or courage or pure bloody-mindedness, whether you agree with it or not. This is music, after all, not a pamphlet. It is perfectly legitimate to approach it as a work of art and not as a debating stance. In the end, it is fairly loutish to put yourself in a position where you are compelled to dislike or reject anything made by people with different opinions than your own, as if nothing of value could possibly spring from a vantage point other than yours. In fact, one of the greatest (and also least recognised) uses of art is that it enables you to partake in and experience things that are alien to you, without this requiring any commitment to it beyond that experience. If you're a committed socialist and pass up the opportunity to let music allow you to feel the thrills of a life spent in pursuit of consumerist hedonism for three minutes, you're not using your options. Works just as well in the other direction of course.
    Last edited by Qvist; October 5, 2011 at 07:13 PM.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Does your knowledge of an artists politics affect your appreciation of thier musi

    Quote Originally Posted by Qvist View Post
    Why is it so terribly important to be able to like the artist as an individual? Great things are sometimes made by thoroughly objectionable people, it's always been like that.

    As for politics, that's not something you can neccessarily ignore, if it enters into the music rather than just the artist's personal life. But it doesn't have to be about agreement. You can admire something for its commitment or idealism or courage or pure bloody-mindedness, whether you agree with it or not. This is music, after all, not a pamphlet. It is perfectly legitimate to approach it as a work of art and not as a debating stance. In the end, it is fairly loutish to put yourself in a position where you are compelled to dislike or reject anything made by people with different opinions than your own, as if nothing of value could possibly spring from a vantage point other than yours. In fact, one of the greatest (and also least recognised) uses of art is that it enables you to partake in and experience things that are alien to you, without this requiring any commitment to it beyond that experience. If you're a committed socialist and pass up the opportunity to let music allow you to feel the thrills of a life spent in pursuit of consumerist hedonism for three minutes, you're not using your options. Works just as well in the other direction of course.
    Hey Mcrickson and Qvist! If I may say, excellent posts.

    Re. Mcrickson's statement about art and action being separate, I'm not that they are, indeed, when is art ever not action. Art is always a statement, always contributing and thus acting as force of change. And more importantly, they both come from the same person, the artist. What the artist is as a person must surely affect what is produced and that effect need not necessarily be an obvious inclusion of symbols and signposts. But, as Qvist says very perceptively, it's not as simple as possibly admiring an artist and what she/he produces because he/she's, for example a socialist, but admiring their 'commitment or idealism or courage or pure bloody-mindedness', and those basic qualities, along with many others, can manifest themselves in many guises, raving nazi, fervent radical and so on.
    But Qvist, you are, ofcourse correct to say you'd be a nut not to listen to music made by your political opponents it's just that these days one can't help knowing about an artist and can't be blamed for reacting to that knowledge. If that knowledge includes something that is, for you, beyond the pale then surely that will affect what you think of their art?

    Mcrickson says "Of course. Hitler had a very exceptional analytical mind. Just because his legacy is perhaps one of the most infamous in human history doesn't mean that value can't be found in his art." Well I would say we are too close in time to what Hitler did for there to be any possibility of finding value in his work. (And just for the record, Hitlers watercolours really are dreadful).

  11. #11
    Senior Member Raphael Lambach's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does your knowledge of an artists politics affect your appreciation of thier musi

    Quote Originally Posted by Peterb View Post
    Good point Raphael. Liking an artists politics can also lead one to liking the music.
    Although I'm afraid it's never worked with me, for example Billy Bragg and The Communards. Love the politics (and the artists as people) but can't stand the music.
    Quote Originally Posted by SparkleBoy View Post
    That's interesting. I can't stand his music but I think he has a fucking great attitude. Plus, he is a great, honest interviewee and has a fantastic sense of humor to boot. I just wish hid music had the same feeling.
    I really think it isn't the most important thing when you choice an artist but it can help you find artists out.
    "Those who murder language are not pure" - Camus

    http://www.parana-online.com.br/colunistas/367/

  12. #12

    Default Re: Does your knowledge of an artists politics affect your appreciation of thier musi

    Quote Originally Posted by Peterb View Post
    Hey Mcrickson and Qvist! If I may say, excellent posts.

    Re. Mcrickson's statement about art and action being separate, I'm not that they are, indeed, when is art ever not action. Art is always a statement, always contributing and thus acting as force of change.
    That's what they want you to think. But "art" is a brand now - it sells - especially to all these fucking hipsters. It would be very easy to create something completely arbitrarily - unintentionally, even - and market it to someone under the pretense of it being art.

    Quote Originally Posted by Peterb View Post
    Mcrickson says "Of course. Hitler had a very exceptional analytical mind. Just because his legacy is perhaps one of the most infamous in human history doesn't mean that value can't be found in his art." Well I would say we are too close in time to what Hitler did for there to be any possibility of finding value in his work. (And just for the record, Hitlers watercolours really are dreadful).
    "Too close in time for there to be any possibility of finding value in his work"? And who determines the historical cut-off date for artistic merit?

  13. #13

    Default Re: Does your knowledge of an artists politics affect your appreciation of thier musi

    Quote Originally Posted by mcrickson View Post
    That's what they want you to think. But "art" is a brand now - it sells - especially to all these fucking hipsters. It would be very easy to create something completely arbitrarily - unintentionally, even - and market it to someone under the pretense of it being art.



    "Too close in time for there to be any possibility of finding value in his work"? And who determines the historical cut-off date for artistic merit?
    What I meant by too close is that there are people alive today who still feel the horror of the nazis. No one decides, I think it just happens. As time passes, the acts of horror are viewed more dispassionately. No many people today feel the pain of what Cromwell did in Ireland for example.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Does your knowledge of an artists politics affect your appreciation of thier musi

    But Qvist, you are, ofcourse correct to say you'd be a nut not to listen to music made by your political opponents it's just that these days one can't help knowing about an artist and can't be blamed for reacting to that knowledge. If that knowledge includes something that is, for you, beyond the pale then surely that will affect what you think of their art?

    Mcrickson says "Of course. Hitler had a very exceptional analytical mind. Just because his legacy is perhaps one of the most infamous in human history doesn't mean that value can't be found in his art." Well I would say we are too close in time to what Hitler did for there to be any possibility of finding value in his work. (And just for the record, Hitlers watercolours really are dreadful
    Hitler is not a very good example, because he is a person whose political significance so enormously outweighs his artistic significance that the latter is in effect nearly non-existant. Usually, any music with any quality worth speaking about is at least balanced in that regard. Of course, you always have to decide when the politics outweigh the art. You can’t just apply the same logic to Leni Riefensthal’s propaganda movies that you do to Morrissey or Paul Weller.

    First paragraph: Quite so, but there is also a point here about the distinction between the artist as a person and what he creates. We are talking about what we can get out of someone’s records, not how we’d feel about him marrying our sister and turning up for the family christmas party every year, after all. The point I am making is that I can’t see that there is any clear point in making a judgment of the person. “If that knowledge includes something that is, for you, beyond the pale then surely that will affect what you think of their art?” Yes, but not neccessarily by making me reject it. Take Knut Hamsun, to choose an example from literature. Supported Hitler throughout the German occupation, convicted of treason, published some truly inexcusable things including a glowing obituary for Hitler in the dying hours of the war. Which does not change the fact that he wrote the finest novels ever published in Norwegian. I love them unreservedly. Or Billy Bragg’s Between the Wars, in my frank opinion a remarkably stupid lyric that manages to list nearly all of the worst left wing staple idiocies of the past century within a three minute song, made by someone you know is all too capable of believing in them. But it’s still a great song, so great that you still feel the pull of the ideas because of the pure conviction with which Bragg delivers them.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Does your knowledge of an artists politics affect your appreciation of thier musi

    That's what they want you to think. But "art" is a brand now - it sells - especially to all these fucking hipsters. It would be very easy to create something completely arbitrarily - unintentionally, even - and market it to someone under the pretense of it being art.
    Sorry, that's what who wants him to think? And how is that relevant to this discussion?

  16. #16

    Default Re: Does your knowledge of an artists politics affect your appreciation of thier musi

    Quote Originally Posted by Qvist View Post
    Hitler is not a very good example, because he is a person whose political significance so enormously outweighs his artistic significance that the latter is in effect nearly non-existant. Usually, any music with any quality worth speaking about is at least balanced in that regard. Of course, you always have to decide when the politics outweigh the art. You can’t just apply the same logic to Leni Riefensthal’s propaganda movies that you do to Morrissey or Paul Weller.

    First paragraph: Quite so, but there is also a point here about the distinction between the artist as a person and what he creates. We are talking about what we can get out of someone’s records, not how we’d feel about him marrying our sister and turning up for the family christmas party every year, after all. The point I am making is that I can’t see that there is any clear point in making a judgment of the person. “If that knowledge includes something that is, for you, beyond the pale then surely that will affect what you think of their art?” Yes, but not neccessarily by making me reject it. Take Knut Hamsun, to choose an example from literature. Supported Hitler throughout the German occupation, convicted of treason, published some truly inexcusable things including a glowing obituary for Hitler in the dying hours of the war. Which does not change the fact that he wrote the finest novels ever published in Norwegian. I love them unreservedly. Or Billy Bragg’s Between the Wars, in my frank opinion a remarkably stupid lyric that manages to list nearly all of the worst left wing staple idiocies of the past century within a three minute song, made by someone you know is all too capable of believing in them. But it’s still a great song, so great that you still feel the pull of the ideas because of the pure conviction with which Bragg delivers them.
    Hey Qvist, very good point. (by the way, what are doing posting this stuff at 08:00? Unless ofcourse you're in the States). Knut Hamsun is a good example. I read him a few years ago and I knew about the Nazi connection, and yes, he is good.
    But as I said I think it is a matter of degree. You're right, Hitler was not a good example, I just wanted to take an extreme as a reference point.
    Leni Riefensthal is a very good example to discuss because I do have a problem with her work.Technically her propaganda work is breathtaking. But how can we watch it knowing what it represented, the enourmous lie it propagated, the horror it concealed. I'm sure you're aware of her denials of complicity and the counters that she know what was going on. I don't know how much difference her personal culpability makes.
    You know, the more we discuss this, the more I feel I'm getting out of my depth.The subject seems to complex to explore the ideas like this. Ideally we need to rope in Mcrickson and discuss this over a cappucino.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Does your knowledge of an artists politics affect your appreciation of thier musi

    Quote Originally Posted by Qvist View Post
    Sorry, that's what who wants him to think?
    They. I thought that was perfectly clear.

    Quote Originally Posted by Qvist View Post
    And how is that relevant to this discussion?
    It's relevant to conversation because what people claim as "art" isn't necessarily a statement, as Peterb said. It's a product.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Does your knowledge of an artists politics affect your appreciation of thier musi

    Quote Originally Posted by Peterb View Post
    What I meant by too close is that there are people alive today who still feel the horror of the nazis. No one decides, I think it just happens. As time passes, the acts of horror are viewed more dispassionately. No many people today feel the pain of what Cromwell did in Ireland for example.
    So because there is a minority of people today who "still feel the horror" of something that happened 70+ years ago, it means that no one is allowed to find any value in anything that Hitler did without being judged as a Nazi?

  19. #19

    Default Re: Does your knowledge of an artists politics affect your appreciation of thier musi

    Quote Originally Posted by mcrickson View Post
    So because there is a minority of people today who "still feel the horror" of something that happened 70+ years ago, it means that no one is allowed to find any value in anything that Hitler did without being judged as a Nazi?
    First, there is a majority of people who still feel the horror of Hitler's crimes. Second, "finding value" in Hitler's watercolors doesn't make one a Nazi, it just marks one as having the rare talent of seeing the twigs and missing the forest. If you were to bring up Hitler's watercolors at a party, I assure you the word which leaps into your listeners' minds first probably won't be "Nazi".
    Last edited by Worm; October 6, 2011 at 02:17 PM.

  20. #20

    Default Re: Does your knowledge of an artists politics affect your appreciation of thier musi

    Morrissey's politics are in everything he's done. Anyone who separates Morrissey's politics from his art isn't actually doing so, they're just tacitly agreeing with aspects of Morrissey's political beliefs which are less obvious than others.

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