The Unbearable Lightness of Being Neil Young
Frame from A Day At The Gallery
(Click photo to enlarge)
The lightness of being Neil Young must be just so unbearable.
You go solo or reunite with your old band Buffalo Springfield, and fans wail about Crazy Horse.
You re-group with Crazy Horse and record a covers album and fans wail about wanting new songs.
Which brings us to the unbearable lightness of being ... Neil Young.
Earlier this week, a new Shakey Pictures film for Americana debuted titled "A Day At The Gallery". The remarkable 40 minute silent film combined music from Americana , song videos, art by Shepard Fairey, and some dramatic/comedy acting by Neil Young and the Shakey Pictures crew. It was astonishing, unprecedented, amazing and -- in keeping with all things Neil related -- unexpected.
But was it art? And does it matter?
Some insist that "A Day At The Gallery" is nothing more than "40 minutes of self indulgence" and "a pretentious piece of crap".
We -- and others -- disagree.
On the Le Noise 2010 tour we posted a review "Expecting to See Neil Young (or Man Without A Net)" about how Neil had transcended being simply just a musician and how he had evolved into a performance artist. About how he creates new art forms by combining music, painting, film, writing and more into something wonderfully new and fun and exciting.
Which brings us to the comment of the moment from the reaction to A Day At The Gallery: Shakey Pictures Americana Film Debut by peter d.:
Let's not call it 'art'. Let's call it 'Neil'. That way everyone probably will be satisfied...
This movie is not 'art' with a big 'A'. Just like Waging Heavy Peace is not 'literature' aiming at the Nobel prize. Just like Americana is not the best crafted song cycle in history.
Neil is not a very good actor. In fact, he is a bad actor. Just like he is a 'bad' guitar player (yes, in every meaning of the word...).
Just like Neil's music is not very 'good' in terms of playing the right notes at the right time in the right order.
What makes most people mad is they don't understand it's not meant to be great. It's not meant to make you feel in awe of some genius. Neil is NO genius. He's just Neil and tries to stay Neil.
The only thing that makes him stand out is that he is capable of being himself and do what he wants to do all his life. Not being bothered by fans, critics, anon's, hell, not even by us.
So, it's just that capacity that I am in awe of. Just being yourself, and let it all out. Not holding back. Not being ashamed. Just do it. Be.
That's not art - so you can't put him or his work down on that level, you just got it all wrong if you do so - it's LIFE. Neil's work breathes LIFE to me.
Life worth living. He has his life, I have mine.
'There's a world you're living in...
No one else has your part.'
So is A Day At The Gallery art and does it matter?
Well, everyone can decide for themselves so we'll just leave it with these thoughts...
One hundred years ago this month, Claude Debussy wrote an article for Etude Magazine titled “Musical Taste in Modern Times”:
"The sense for the mysterious is gradually disappearing in these days in consequence of the irrepressible desire to prove everything, to explain everything; yet there is something which will always remain mysterious—and that is Taste. Be it understood that here “taste” is used only in its application to music — a subject already difficult enough, for the question of taste enters into close contact with innumerable feelings and nuances in feelings which are one with, and inseparable from, the word “Taste.”
In most cases the question is evaded with the usual assurance that “about taste and color it is impossible to argue.” This argument is just as vain as when someone pounds his fist on the table in support of his pet view.
And if a definite stand is to be taken, and an opinion voiced, so that it does not seem as if one were simply juggling with subtly-colored words, then this can be said: The beauty of a work of art cannot exist without mystery. That is, it cannot be accurately ascertained in a work of art “how it is done.”
Let us preserve this particular charm to music, at any cost.
By the very nature of its art, music is more sensitive to this than any other form of art, for everything in it is mystery. We know nothing about its beginning. Learned savants claim that man sung before he spoke—that song existed before speech. This opinion seems too poetic—altogether too contrary to the barbarism of primitive ages. Let us rather accept the theory that it was the warbling of the birds which first gave man the thought of music."
Art doesn't need a purpose. Art is whatever we bring to it. And if that's truth, beauty and mystery, then that's OK with us.
"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science."