How Art Talks to Art, Part II

13 06 2015

You might be wondering, “Part two? I thought you just explained everything in your previous post. How much more do you have to say? Also, why am I on this silly site instead of porn?” And yes, I wanted to nail down everything I meant in one post, but I’ve had a difficult time trying to articulate why it is I’m writing a mixed-genre memoir, even when it comes to writing it down (because me telling you in person would be a lot more rambling).

Well, I’ve been thinking about it a lot more, and I don’t think my previous post quite got it. But I think I’ve narrowed it down to something simple.

There’s the pleasure and experience of reading a piece of fiction or poetry or listening to music watching a play or film or looking at a piece of art on its own without any explanation or information about the artist or writer. That’s the simplest way of enjoying it.

Watch this video and just listen to the music. Take a note of how you feel about the piece and what you think about it. Note: if you know anything about Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude, this might not work.

But what about the story behind the story? In terms of literature, one of the most common questions writers get asked is “What inspired you to write that?” To me, what is interesting is when it’s something personal that happened to them. I wish I had more examples to give, other than my own work, but one good one is Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude. When I learned to play this years ago, I didn’t know the history behind it. I just played it because I needed to for my upcoming exam. All I knew was that it was fast, loud, super hard, and the sixteenth notes rumbling in the left hand throughout the entire piece killed my arm after. My piano teacher eventually explained that at the time, Poland, Chopin’s country of birth, was being attacked by Russian forces. As he still had family and friends in Poland, he was upset and emotional. So he wrote this as a response.

When I heard this story, the piece made a lot more sense. I saw the etude in a different light. I understood why it was so loud, the specific accents on chords, how the left hand almost feels like it cries out when it goes up into the treble clef. The history — the story behind the story — enhanced my perspective. I saw the piece as it was intentionally meant by its creator.

I realized that my non-creative non-fiction work — fiction, poetry, plays, scripts — are almost always based on some sort of personal experience. I write things for a reason, sometimes as a response to something I’ve gone through. Of course, you could enjoy them on their own, but being aware of the context, I think, elevates the piece.

That’s what my creative non-fiction work is mostly about. My memoir, by extension, is not so much about why I wrote my fictional works as it is a way to get you in the right mindset when I wrote it. That way, you can then try and glean what autobiographical details may be embedded in the fiction. Fiction can, of course, be autobiographical in nature, and together with memoir, can provide a more complete and deeper understanding of a person’s life. At least I think so. And at least for me.

I hope that makes sense. I do tend to complicate things, so maybe my explanation was a bit convoluted. If so, now that you understand what Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude was about watch it again.

Do you see a difference?

-A

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