I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Monday, November 03, 2008

High Culture

I read an article in the LA Times over the weekend called High culture meets low culture in a mass-media world written by Scott Timberg. Timberg's article is a good jumping off point for a question I've been thinking about for quite a while: What happens to a society when it becomes so immersed in low culture (or pop culture, such: as reality TV, gossip magazines, sitcoms, pop music, etc.) that it loses its appreciation for high culture (literature, opera, painting, theater, etc.)?

Here's an interesting excerpt from Timberg's article:

I WONDER sometimes if we may have succeeded too well in getting rid of distinctions, though. It's hard for me to avoid a low-grade worry that we're losing our ability to recognize quality itself.

"What we seem to have nowadays is more of a hierarchy of media," said [Pico Iyer, the eminent Japan-and- California-based travel writer], "whereby, for example, dance, classical music, opera, and even theater and books, all of which commanded their own sections in Time magazine only a generation ago, are now regarded as lofty and remote subjects for only a handful of connoisseurs." Those pages, he said, are "given over now to a Britney watch or extended investigations into the new iPhone."

I'm a bundle of contradictions when it comes to high and low culture. I honestly don't understand the obsession with celebrities in our culture, but I am highly interested in the latest technology news. I prefer chick flicks over theater any day, but I enjoy theater when I actually take the time to go. I prefer pop-fiction to literature (in the traditional sense of the word), but I do enjoy literature. Its just harder for me to read.

I imagine that most people are like me--we live somewhere in between high and low culture. I don't think that is a bad thing. But a person who never ventures outside of high culture probably has a hard time relating to the person who lives in low culture. And the person who is immersed in low culture probably has little understanding of, or appreciation for, heritage.

High culture isn't necessarily better than low culture, but the two have distinct objectives. Artists in high culture seek the highest artistic levels with seeming little regard for popularity. Artists in low culture seek mass appeal with seeming little regard for artistic level. Those are generalizations and I'm sure many exceptions exists, but there's a reason the distinction exists.

Timberg asked whether guilt plays a role in shaping our tastes. After interviewing people he concluded that guilt doesn't play a role. People consume what they want to consume without regard for the category of culture it might fit in to. I tend to agree with that, although sometimes I find myself thinking that I should get to the theater more often. I don't think such thoughts are rooted in guilt as much as they are a longing for balance. But I could be wrong.

Photo Credit: Michael Maher


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...