Saturday, May 3, 2014

Puzzling over Value #8b: Peter Barker and Robert Johnson

Slight pause while I finish  Carey's book: The Intellectuals and the Masses:Pride and prejudice among the Literary Intelligentsia; 1880-1939  which so far isn't very convincing

Two thoughts to be going on with:

In ‘The Land Where the Blues Began’ Alan Lomax writes this of Robert Johnston:

In fact, little Robert added Lonnie Johnson’s tricky orchestral style to the licks of Charley Patton and Blind Lemon that Son House passed on to him. Like other much-recorded New Orleans musicians, Lonnie Johnson had creolized the blues, reorganized their lyrics so each one told a story, and set them to book learned harmonies. Little Robert played some of Lonnie’s sophisticated progressions, but he set his highly ornamented, almost oriental vocal style over them. P16

That made him Excellent, he was carving out his own niche, but did that make ‘Little Robert”  “Elitist”?

Of course not, like any professional he was looking for the edge that distinguished him from the crowd. It is the natural pursuit of excellence and if he were good enough, it was going to take him away from the competition. Standing out from the crowd meant more work, more money. It also earned the respect of his peers.

Here’s Son House, as recorded by Lomax: And play, that boy could play, more blues than air [sic] one of us. Folk would say he couldn’t, but we know, us musicians, that he was the man. What little I know I taught him, but he put his own sound in it, and sing with it, sing all night. (Op cit p16)

So the question is: does, and if so, how does, someone like Ezra Pound or James Joyce as artists pursuing their craft, differ from "Little Robert"?

Second point, I like trees, I think they are beautiful, and if I were any kind of decent photographer I'd take thousands of pictures of them. But I'm not, and a lot of pictures, photographic or painted,  just do them badly.

Peter Barker is a British artist who does trees better than any other painter I've seen. Now, he is excellent. If I had the dosh and was in the habit of buying pictures,  I'd buy his, because he does them so well and I don't like badly painted trees. 

Does that make me or him elitist? (His pictures can be seen at the link below)

1 comment:

David X. Novak said...

I don't think that "any professional" is looking for the edge that distinguishe[s] him from the crowd", which is something distinct from "the natural pursuit of excellence". It is related to marketing, and something that most professionals do figure out somewhere along the line - earlier or late. I myself was somewhat naive to start. Pound knew that much, but I couldn't guess about Joyce. To me, it potentially becomes a negative, when, as in the case of one of my instructors in art school, you had the impression that early on, he said to himself, "Now I'm only going to do trapezoids, and that will set me apart." Taking an interest, say, in trees, and following it, is a different matter.

As to the word "elite" (and all its variants), oh, oh, oh, I don't think I want to touch that.