2021: A World Renewed
Art & Music
Second Chances, Second Glances
- Quick! Draw a sketch of your teammate. Would you call it an original work of art?
- Now draw a sketch of the Mona Lisa—from memory! Is it an original work?
- What if you Googled the Mona Lisa and copied an image of it exactly?
- Think about the oldest piece of art you have ever seen in real life. Was it exactly how the artist had made it?
- Have you ever visited reconstructed ruins, such as Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, or LAX? Would you rather they had been left in their original state?
- Should we restore important works of art and architecture as they begin to decay, or should we let them age naturally?
- Old buildings are sometimes adapted for new uses (rather than replaced) because government regulations prevent them from being torn down. If you could adaptively reuse your school, what would it become?
- Why do reworkings of a song sometimes find greater success than the original?
- What old song would you suggest a current artist rerecord?
- Would you consider a new album from a favorite singer—or a new painting from a favorite artist—to be a continuation of their previous work? What kinds of expectations do an artist’s past works set up for their future ones?
- Consider your favorite song. Which artists would you want to have cover it—and which ones would you not want anywhere near it?
- Would you want the original artist to write a sequel song?
- For important occasions, would you rather play music that is new or old?
- Would you rather decorate your home with old art or new art—or with new recreations of old art? How about your school or workplace?
- Are high school versions of popular musicals examples of censorship?
Everything Old is Renewed Again
- All over the world, there are efforts to create new versions of other works. Sometimes, the originals no longer exist; sometimes, they do. Sometimes, the new work is a strict imitation of the original; sometimes, it is reinterpreted for a new place or time. Sometimes, the old work is repaired to be newish again—or converted directly into a new one.
- Recreations and Restorations
- Copies and Clones
- Adaptive Reuse
- Works of art can celebrate change in the world: the steady movement of the seasons, and moments of unexpected progress. They can also communicate concern—artists don’t always think the new is the improved.
- New Times Are Here Again
- New Leaders to Dim the Way
- New Hopes in the Dark
- New Anxieties in the World of Tomorrow
And the Band Auto-Plays On
- Music lends itself to renewal more easily than art and architecture. It’s standard fare for a new artist to record their own version of an existing song and present it to the world as a cover; many aspiring singers even begin their careers (or end them) imitating other more successful performers.
- Which is more impressive: performing someone else’s song in a new way or imitating them as much as possible?
- Hallelujah | Leonard Cohen vs. Jeff Buckley
- I Will Always Love You | Dolly Parton vs. Whitney Houston
- The Man Who Sold the World | David Bowie vs. Nirvana
- Africa | Toto vs. Weezer
- Can’t Help Falling in Love With You | Justin Shandor vs. Rudraksha vs. Elvis Presley
- New Year’s Day | Blood Red Sky vs. U2
- What is the line between imitation and a new creation, when one performer—or musical trend—inspires another?
- Can songs be given sequels in a way that makes sense to audiences?
- What can lead an older song to achieve sudden new popularity?
- In what ways can music help us cope with and understand a world that is changing all around us?
- When is music the right medium for representing an emergence from conflict?
- How can the music we make today help us understand and appreciate events from the past?
- How different should the music for follow-ups and sequels to movies and other works be from the original?
- How can music act as a bridge connecting the old and the new?
Concluding Questions and Examples
- Research the photography of Julia Margaret Cameron and consider: was she truly making mistakes if she was doing so on purpose and with artistic intent? Discuss with your team: when, if ever, can errors make art more valuable?
- Every season audiences can attend new musicals (though some are adapted from existing books, films, or plotless rock albums) as well as revivals of musicals from years past. Discuss with your team: are there any movies released in 2018 or 2019 that you believe would make good musicals?
- New music is constantly being made, so why do there seem to be so few new Christmas songs?
- Should we aim to recreate lost music? How about lost Dr. Who episodes?
- Some groups change performers and continue to find success; musicals that run long enough do this by design, as when creator Lin-Manuel Miranda stepped away from Hamilton. At Yale University, one a cappella group, the Whiffenpoofs, replaces its entire lineup with new recruits each year (including, recently, their first non-male performer). Is a musical group really still the same group after switching some or all of its members? How about an orchestra, or a global round stage team, or a sports franchise?
- Along the same lines, consider disbanded groups—from ABBA to the Backstreet Boys—that get back together many years later for reunion tours. Are such reunions only authentic if the same members are performing? In the case of ABBA, the band opted for CGI to look more like their younger selves—is this an unnecessary deception or a case of honoring an audience’s nostalgia?
- Consider the musical Martin Guerre—from the makers of Les Misérables and Miss Saigon—which was radically reworked after a widely-lampooned first run. Old songs were discarded, new ones written, and others updated—as when When Will Someone Hear became How Many Tears. Discuss with your team: were the changes effective, and should more songs be updated after their first release in response to audience reactions? How about movies, books, and subject outlines?
Last updated: February 14