confession: i really have another ponder i want to post. but i promised myself that i wouldn’t let this become an all-pondering blog. i started it to talk music, and i’m going to do that. so i told myself i can write my ponder (it’s written already to be honest) once i post something off my list of musical topics. plus, i wanted to remind folks that i will happily take questions and suggestions for topics. okay, so, onto the music….
since i mentioned it a bit in my last non-pondering post, i thought i’d spend a little time talking about artist intent. it’s a topic that pops up all the time. in any class i’ve taken about any sort of art (writing, painting, drama, sculpture, architecture, etc), it is usually addressed either directly on its own or as part of the discussion about a specific work. and any time i’ve looked at fans talking about work, the discussion seems to at least touch on “what do you think they meant?”
in my senior year of high school, my ap lit class was discussing ts eliot’s “lovesong of j alfred prufrock.” i dig eliot, and this is one of my top few poems by him. there’s a line in there about daring to eat a peach. as usual, the teacher asked what we thought that meant. one of the guys said something like, “i think the poem is about a dude who was a sailor and had adventures, and now he’s just old and not sure if he even dares to eat a peach.” there was a split second of silence, and then a few of us started strangling on our laughs. the first person to recover then explained the poem as many of us understood it, explicating the symbolism and allusions, and noting that eating a peach is a euphemism for oral sex and that was very likely what was meant here. the funny thing was, the first guy had already truly enjoyed the poem without ever seeing it as anything deeper. whilst some of us couldn’t imagine enjoying it without the symbols and allusions. chances are, eliot had intent when he wrote all that.
i bring this up because, as much as it can make a work mean more when you know artist intent, it’s not necessary.
as noted in my last non-ponder, i have actually had things ruined when i learned artist intent. i mentioned music, but it’s happened multiple places. i stumble on art. i find meaning in it and connect to it. that makes the art a deeper thing for me. and then i read an article about what the artist meant and it’s so entirely not what i saw…if i’m lucky, it adds to what i saw or my brain just refuses to let that change my opinion. if i’m not lucky, the art is soured for me.
as an artist, i definitely understand the value of what i put into something. i didn’t just randomly put together pieces. i put part of myself in there. when someone else tells me what they think my stuff is about and they are entirely wrong, i try not to look too confused.
because the fact is that once it’s outside of me, once it has been seen or heard by others, there is now part of it that is theirs. the work remains mine. but their experience and interpretation, however far off it may sound to me, is valid to them. it’s their emotional experience, and i just have to let that go. especially if i write with symbols, allusions, or any sort of ambiguity, that’s bound to happen. plus, even if i write about something specific in my life, no one else has lived my life. so it is just thick of me to assume that they will apply my words in exactly the same way.
the part of me that wants to be understood struggles with this. write an essay per song and broadcast to the world! but my own experience has taught me both that there is something to be said for the ambiguity that lets everyone find their own place in a song and that there is no way you can guarantee that everyone who hears it will also have read your essay.
so find your own places in the songs. and forgive me if your places confuse me, especially if they make me grin because they are so far off mine. i don’t mean any insult by it. and i really do enjoy hearing about what the songs mean to people. i love to see what they became outside of me.
just don’t use me as your excuse when you hurt someone, shoot up a school, or other such things. i am definitely not telling you to do that. blame your parents or the tv instead, okay?