Sunday, 2 December 2012

Proust on Newness

It was Beethoven's quartets themselves [..] that devoted half a century to forming, fashioning and enlarging the audience for Beethoven's quartets, thus marking, like every great work of art, an advance if not in the quality of artists at least in the quality of minds, largely composed today of what was not to be found when the work first appeared, that is of persons capable of appreciating it.. it is essential that the work should create its own posterity. For if the work were held in reserve, were revealed only to posterity, that audience, for that particular work would not be posterity but a group of contemporaries who were merely living half a century later in time. And so it is essential that the artist, if he wishes his work to be free to follow its own course, should launch it, where there is sufficient depth, boldly into the distant future.

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As all novelty depends upon the prior elimination of the stereotypical attitude to which we have grown accustomed, and which seemed to us to be reality itself, any new form of conversation, like all original painting and music, must always appear complicated and exhausting. It is based on figures of speech with which we are not familiar, the speakers appear to us to be talking entirely in metaphors; and this wearies us and gives us the impression of a want of truth. (After all, the old forms of speech must also in their time have been images difficult to follow, when the listener was not yet cognisant of the universe which they depicted. .. people immediately felt the strain, and sought a foothold upon something which they called more concrete, meaning by that more usual.)

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