Rilke, Love and Art

I just finished Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet.  Beautiful. I’ve added it to my recommended readings and I’m considering making it mandatory reading for my students, especially those who are leaving my studio to pursue a music career.

These ten letters are filled with literary gems about art and artists, I won’t burden you with all of my favourites, but this one really resonated with me:

“Works of art are of infinite loneliness and with nothing so little to be reached as with criticism.  Only love can grasp and hold and be just toward them.”

Rilke is speaking of solitude in art and artists.  He’s writing from the creator’s perspective, observing and coping with how her work is received in the world.

The quote speaks for itself, and speaks on many levels besides art.  But in focusing on art, it struck me how it can be inverted to accommodate observers.  Observers, critiques, listeners, audiences and the like are equally lonely in their perception of art.

I think about the scowls audiences receive for clapping between movements.  I think about the funny looks I get because I haven’t heard about this, or haven’t checked out that.  I think back to the Carolina Shout incident, and how a lonely teacher handled his lonely students.

Whether I’m teaching, performing or writing, I hold myself to this idea: We’re all lonely but love makes a universal remedy.  Anything otherwise is bound to be unjust, divisive and self-defeating.

Thanks Rilke!

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