Saturday, December 26, 2020

What Endures?


Kevin D. Williamson at National Review:

Can you recite 20 consecutive lines of poetry written by an American in the past 20 years, or name 20 living American poets of any consequence? There is a reason for that. Messiah, composed in 1741, is going on 300 years old. Is there a single musical work by a North American in our time that we expect to be so nearly universally recognizable in the year 2299?

I guess that's an interesting question, but another interesting question is "how could we possibly know -- did anyone expect or predict Messiah to be popular, or considered important, for 300 years?" It apparently got a cool reception in London early on.

While I suspect that Williamson is correct in his specific prediction -- that shoehorning current "identity politics" fads  into old musical/theatrical forms isn't likely to produce much new art of lasting impact -- I also suspect that there will be composers and poets from our era who are as well-remembered 300 years from now as George Frideric Handel (and, say, William Blake) are today.

If I had to pick two such, I guess I'd go with Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg.


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