The (Mis) Education of

During VONA I approached a nationally recognized writer and asked if they were going to do some new stuff for their reading. Writer looked a bit surprise and responded that normally all folks ask for is older work that they are more familiar with, the stuff that they loved when they first read it and (I’m guessin here) the stuff that will keep inspiring them.

I’m all for this but it brings up a complicated question: When does the artist put what the public wants to the curb? When does the artist say to the public: I know what you want to do with my art but what about what I want to do with my art?

In a perfect world, there should be some balance in that equation but a perfect world it ain’t.

Case in point: Late start, new approach disappoint Lauryn Hill fans at Oakland concert

I know this is popular music, a world which is galaxies away from poetry, but it is a wild situation to look at. On one hand, we have folks payin real money to be entertained and getting disappointed. Is it really that different from folks buying a book and having all their expectations for what a book could do (inspire, entertain, educate, etc.) and having all those individual expectations deflated?

The article mentions that that show was late, a bad sound system and off pitch singing which are all valid markers for disapproval but it also goes to mention Ms Hill’s attire and literally tripping over her own feet which is audience nitpicking at its finest. Let’s say the show started on time, the sound was clear and the singing was right on, would it then be OK for the artist to dress like they want and to experience some human error on stage?

Lauryn Hill gets the last word and they are very specific, “I can’t fit into a stereotype that makes me comfortable for you. If that makes me feel uncomfortable to you, I need to find some new company.”

I’m still not sure if it is entirely fair for her to say this after folks have shelled out time and money to see her but i do appreciate that she is laying it out on the line like that.

Wonder if the audience will have any words for this or will they just let their neglect be a substitute for an actual response?

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  1. hey, i just read that article yesterday and was thinking the same thing!

    i just recently saw erykah badu, whose older work i really dig, and i havent really kept up with her newer work. at her concert, she mixed it up with some old some new, the sound was good, she looked good, and she was on time. to me, this made my ‘discomfort’ with the new work inhabitable. but she’s also great live.

    i saw lauryn hill live years ago, and it was a bit painful..tho she seemed completely stoned. i think most people know her concerts are hit or miss, so buyer beware you know.

    as far as expectations, check out ron silliman’s blog today…he talks about a poet whose work changes dramatically each book…interesting stuff. i think readers can and will adjust…and if they dont, they dont. but it’s true also that sometimes artists dont change–but just go with the same formula that made them successful…ah well


  2. Context is important, I think. For a public reading or concert, especially a paid one, the audience is generally expecting whatever’s been promoted, and in lieu of specific, they’re expecting the greatest hits, perhaps with a splash of new stuff.

    You have a lot more flexibility book-to-book (or album-to-album) to switch it up, but in person, going with an all-new set, without the appearance being promoted as such, can justifiably lead to disappointment, especially if you’re also switching up styles.

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