October 20, 2019
What is on my mind, my social media asked me? ART! But not just my mind, because real art is about heart. And heart, or what some call “soul”, is that deep, deep place in our species that elevates us beyond the mere animal.
I am a privileged person who has enough money and time to occasionally experience real, honest to-goodness live art. Live art is different than “static” art — both are worth spending a lot more time and a lot more money on than most of us do. Both are infinitely valuable to a life well-lived and a development of the best of human character; much more valuable than all the stuff many of us currently spend our most precious possessions on; that is our money/ savings and our time.
Just a quick refresher course for those of you living locally in the Los Angeles region or near other big cities in America — almost every museum has free days or nights. Art has become expensive because we no longer value it as a necessary component of any decent, long-range thinking society. Tragically, America does not value and support the arts, whether produced by current living artists or by dead famous ones; not in the school systems nor in the mushy, weak soups (and soaps) served up by reality TV or competitive showings of anesthetizing couch potato entrees. So it’s up to us, I fear. Or rather, I don’t “fear”, but I exhort and encourage you to step up and seize the opportunity to experience Art.
I love going to see “static” art — museums, if you will. (If you happen to be in Los Angeles, The Getty is always free and currently has an exhibit on Manet). However, seeing art performed in the moment, something that will never be repeated in exactly the same way, is an experience that can change you from the inside, out and from the outside, in. If you at all have any money you can spare, please, please, please go to live art events. If you are in Southern California, you really must visit, if possible, the two live art venues that my hubby and I went to this week.
You absolutely must go see real, gut-wrenching, “make you think for weeks”, awesomely produced and phenomenally acted live theatre — somewhere, somehow. Ask around, find it and get off that couch and go. Raoul and I are privileged to live nearby a great theatre in Pasadena called “A Noise Within”. This is adult-sized theatre plays, not for Disney-kids, (but ironically, not Disney outrageous prices, either). This is one of the few remaining repertory companies left standing in America. Their current production of Sam Shepherd’s “Buried Child” is outstanding. Raoul and I were just blown away and the actors were so exhausted at the end of the performance from living the intensity of their characters they could hardly stand up for the curtain call. If you haven’t used your little grey cells in a while; go see a play that is written by a playwright with guts and ideas and thematic deepness and acted by actors who are what we call “method” actors, who “live the part” right in front of your very eyes. If you haven’t seen a play worth talking about for days after, or actors who have honed their craft to a fine point, go see something like, “Buried Child”. I highly recommend any play that was not first a movie and was written before tickets cost $600.00 a pop. If you can’t afford anything else, find a street performance and leave a few bucks in their bucket.
The second thing you absolutely must do is go to a concert where real artists play music. I love all genres of music and enjoy going to see super riffing guitarists and stick-throwing drummers from the viewpoint of a mosh pit, to nightclub-style singers at a piano bar, to country western twang-ers in an open air park. BUT — there is nothing that compares to seeing a live orchestra play. If you have a more limited budget that means you can’t make it to a big-city orchestra event, there are still struggling but hopeful orchestras all over the world playing out their hearts and souls. We found a wonderful and amazing opportunity near us, in Pasadena at a lovely, small hall called the Ambassador Auditorium, the home of “The Pasadena Symphony”. It is a much more affordable opportunity than Disney Hall (which we sometimes splurge on), a great venue without a single bad seat, and the home to an orchestra with a group of artists, and special guest artists that are beyond talented. Seeing an orchestra perform, will leave you feeling that humans are truly capable of great feats and godlike mastery.
Last night, I saw not only the always excellent symphony members but a violinist named Tessa Lark, that, I could not tear my eyes away from as she played. It is hard to describe, but when Ms. Lark plays, it is as if the violin is merely feeding her — feeding from the body of her “fiddle” and from the strings and bow a sort of elixir and she is imbibing the notes and then somehow impossible music is being emitted not from the instrument but from her body. She is absolutely mesmerizing but she is completely oblivious to her “show”; rather she is madly in love with the unseen lover that is the music.
But you don’t feel like a voyeur; no, in the audience, I felt as if I were witnessing an event on a different planet; that I was observing with delight a different species of human beings, beings who are similar to what I am as a human, but so much more whole, so beautiful, so pure and innocent, and beyond lovely. It is glorious to witness such beings who are capable of such greatness. It is a greatness at once incredible and unbelievable but also comforting and encouraging. It is comforting and joyous because Ms. Lark and her fellow players are giving something to those who participate with their presence in the audience; they are giving us a gift. The gift is given with joy and the knowledge that their playing is only complete when there are live people in the audience sharing in the gift that the music gives them. It is a community of musical artists and audience and the audience also gets to give gifts; the gift of our hearts. Tessa Lark is the sort of unique soloist, who takes, not just the audience, but the whole orchestra with her, all the players seem elevated to a group of beings who are in love with the music and in love with themselves and each other and with me and my neighbors in the audience and in love with life.
A live orchestra is about art as an act of sacrificial love. And that love is for something Big! and Important! and Phenomenally difficult! and Outstandingly magical! With Capitals and exclamation points! But it is also about us. Little old us, sitting in the audience are loved through the performance too. And love like that is worth a lot.
I gush, I rave — but really…. please, please, please go see artists perform. If all you can afford is a dollar for your local busker, start there, but start valuing art. More importantly though, is to start valuing yourself enough to support and experience live art.
Find something being performed that makes you feel … well…. better. Just Better. Bigger, and yet, delightfully, Smaller. Braver. Truer. Smarter, and yet, More Innocent. Hopeful. Thoughtful. Cheerful. Energized. Awed, and yet, Safe and Warmed.
Most importantly — see other people doing amazing things. Doing God-like things right in front of your very eyes and ears, things like gods do. Creation. And if you are like I am, you will say to yourself: “God, if possible, could I use my first 5,000 years in Eternity, taking violin lessons from Tessa Lark?”
And then in your own small way, you will boldly and joyfully love the world, and your neighbors, and your family, and yourself — with all your Art.