Choir Notes

The Challenging Pleasure of Art
From Music and the Spoken Word
Delivered By: Lloyd D. Newell • Program 4338

A few years ago, Dana Gioia, a commencement speaker at Stanford University, expressed his concern about a culture that, little by little, "trades off the challenging pleasures of art for the easy comforts of entertainment.”
There’s little doubt that entertainment can be worthwhile, fun, an exciting. But when it’s over, entertainment very often leaves us no better than it found us. As Gioia explains, it "exploits and manipulates who we are rather challenges us with a vision of who we might become.”
Art, on the other hand, does not try only to entertain us. It tries to teach us and stretch us; it can lift our spirits and even make us better. As Gioia put it: "You don’t outgrow art. The same work can mean something different at each stage of your life.”¹ It’s not that the work of art changes—we change. In fact, in a very real way, it’s the art the changes us.
Perhaps you have seen a painting or heard a song that you struggled to understand fully. But then, as you studied or pondered it, your eyes were opened to a deeper beauty, a deeper truth, and the work of art became a treasure to you. A young high school student experienced this when he was assigned to study a well-known poem. It wasn’t easy; it challenged and stretched him in unexpected ways. But once he made the effort to appreciate the poem, to discover its meaning below the surface, he was invigorated by its richness. Somehow, in small but important ways, it helped him see the world with a little more depth than he had before.
Like anything worthwhile, art can be challenging. But it is also enriching and inspiring, rewarding those who dig deep for its meaning with the ability to perceive more intently the beauties that surround us.
1 "Gioia to Graduates: ‘Trade Easy Pleasures for More Complex and Challenging Ones,’” Stanford Report, June 17, 2007, http://news.stanford.edu/news/2007/june20/gradtrans-062007.html.

No comments:

Christmas Countdown