Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Art and Competition

The latest list of nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been released.  Among them are Guns N' Roses, Heart, Cure and Joan Jett.  Among a list of artists who are not only not in the R&RHOF but have never been nominated are T-Rex, the Smiths, Yes, Jethro Tull, Devo, Todd Rundgren, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Roxy Music, Willie Nelson, Warren Zevon, the Replacements, ELO, Chubby Checker, Hall and Oates, Los Lobos, Black Flag, X, the B-52s, Dick Dale, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Nick Drake, Captain Beefheart, Sonic Youth and the Go-Go’s.

Some people are up in arms over these omissions.  Such is life when you confuse art with competition.  The same thing happens with Emmy Awards, Oscars, Grammy Awards and Tony Awards.  Some expert opines that so-and-so has been shafted by either not being nominated or not winning.  That's a shame, but it's the issue that one encounters when one brings competition into art.  The two should not commingle, because when they do, trouble follows.

Sports is a competition.  There are timers and scorekeepers to ensure that the winner is the one who completes the game with the requisite amount of goals, points or time.  When you start heaping awards like Most Valuable Something or any award that is voted on by people, trouble follows.  That is because the worlds of art and competition have once again collided.

Soon, Major League Baseball will begin awarding its annual group of Most Valuable Player, Manager of the Year, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards.  They are voted upon by people who may or may not have an ax to grind or have close ties to one of the athletes.  There is no substantive measure for those awards like there is for home run or runs batted in leaders.  When the awards are handed out, invariably somebody cries "foul" and debate heats up over who is more "deserving" of the award.  Poppycock.

Sports are played and decided on the field.  Art is excecuted in front of an audience.  In neither endeavor should human priorities muddy the waters.  Once a winner in sports is decided, the debate is over.  When an appreciative audience applauds a performance, that debate is likewise over.  We don't need "Best Actor" awards or "Best Picture" awards.  Tastes differ and to one, a brainless comedy is a better film than "The Godfather."  It's the purpose of art.  It is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

Athletes of winning teams celebrate in their locker room.  Artists who give great performances relish in them for days, and appreciative audiences reward them with praise.  I'm not sure I understand why we need to give awards to athletes and performers who have already received an award - the joy of satisfying an audience.

I don't need votes and awards to tell me who won or who I like.

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