08 February 2004

The Good and the Beautiful

Terry Teachout has posted a quote about beauty and goodness which struck my eye. I confess I know nothing about the author of the quote, Karl Stern, except that an Amazon.com search says people who bought his book also bought books by George Weigel and Peter Kreeft, so I guess he's someone Catholics read.

The quote struck me largely because I have had so many encounters with the question of the relationship of art and God and goodness over the past two weeks. Last week, a friend asked me about objective beauty in music. How can you say that some music is good music, and some music is not good? I answered him as best I could, and of course dragged out that famous Louis Armstrong quote, "If it sounds good, it is good." There are all sorts of problems with people being from different cultures when you talk about art and music, because Eastern and Western music, and within those distinctions several genres, all sound very, very different. People from different traditions will at first think that other art is strange, yet I think even then they will be capable of saying both whether they like it, and whether they think it is good (not always the same thing).

My second encounter was a post by Samwise over at the Southfarthing Soapbox. (There are actually two posts now, the 2nd and 5th of February.) Samwise is talking about visual art, most specifically painting, although sculpture is also covered by what he says. I am still trying to figure out whether I believe him or not. I think further reflection and possibly a little research is required on my part. But, it is definitely worth thinking about. He talks about why he thinks most modern art violates the rules of good art by lacking reverence for the beauty of God's creation, and the artist's role as sub-creator.

The third encounter was one I shared with Lizzy. We attended a lecture by Perry Lorenzo, the education director of Seattle Opera and Gonzaga alumnus with a philosophy degree. The talk was titled, "The Theology of Beauty; an Introduction to Hans Urs von Balthasar." I'm not going to post about that lecture, though, because Lizzy took notes on it and said she would post.

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