I really liked this video essay I saw, and I have some thoughts about it.
This past March, Scorsese published an essay in Harper‘s called “Il Maestro.” Ostensibly a reflection on the work of Federico Fellini, it also pays tribute to Fellini’s heyday, when on any given night in New York a young movie fan could find himself torn between screenings of the likes of La Dolce Vita, François Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player, Andrzej Wajda’s Ashes and Diamonds, John Cassavetes’ Shadows, and the work of other masters besides. This was early in the time when, as New Yorker critic Anthony Lane puts it, “adventurous moviegoing was part of the agreed cultural duty, when the duty itself was more of a trip than a drag, and when a reviewer could, in the interests of cross-reference, mention the names ‘Dreyer’ or ‘Vigo’ without being accused of simply dropping them for show.”
I was never much of a cinephile, which is my loss, and I watch less video than average. It feels like everyone is always watching some series or other all the time, whereas I might go a year between TV series. I think I see about two movies a year.
The essay was striking nonetheless because I feel this has also been happening to music in the age of personalization.
Everyone has the right to listen to whatever is immediately comfortable, and I’m glad that there are more options that cater to functional sound needs. However, if everyone views themselves as a customer to be satisfied, music culture will die some more, and people will miss out on all sorts of rewarding art.
A small number of people will always make the music they feel should exist, though they might suffer more to make it with an even tinier audience. The bigger losers from this shift, however, are the people that could have experienced that music but never got the chance because of cultural and business practices.
The video essay makes this point better than I do here; you should watch it and consider the idea that challenge isn’t always bad.