Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Concertina Brow Manifesto

1. The Concertina Brow acknowledges his mission as a subset of the general war on Neon Arrows.

2. The Concertina Brow reserves the right to enjoy any artistic product, activity, food, beverage, or cultural artefact of any kind, with no regard for the degree to which his tastes may or may not align with highbrows, middlebrows, lowbrows, or any other brow style of which we may not be aware. The fact that a cultural artefact was favoured by Dead, White, European Males is of no significance, either positive or negative. The opinion of his contemporaries is likewise completely irrelevant to the Concertina Brow, with the exception of individuals whose critical acumen he respects. "Popular" and "unpopular" are terms neither of approbation nor contempt.

3. The Concertina Brow affirms that the relationship of differing artistic traditions (whether divided along highbrow/lowbrow lines or along cultural lines) is one of partial incommensurability. It is logically impossible to state categorically that Italian cuisine, mystery novels, and "pop" music are "better" or "worse" than Thai cuisine, philosophical treatises, and "classical" music, since these terms represent nothing more than conflicting standards of culinary, literary and musical success. It is nevertheless possible, however, to make judgments of quality between particular works, either of a similar genre (a Dan Brown novel versus a Dorothy Sayers novel) or of an entirely different genre (a poorly prepared Italian meal versus an exquisite Japanese meal).

4. The Concertina Brow believes that all forms of cultural expression are of interest and merit based on their unique characteristics, which cannot be encapsulated in any other form of experience. He objects strenously to statements that "Form X is just as good as Form Y," which he recognizes as the veiled insult that it is.

5. The Concertina Brow denies that there is any particular merit to highbrow tastes against lowbrow tastes; indeed, a convicted lowbrow may be more discriminating and tasteful than a highbrow within his own domain.

6. The Concertina Brow believes good taste to be of greater moral significance than is currently believed. His goal is to develop this quality in himself and to encourage its development in others, within the sphere of artistic endeavour that interests them.

7. The Concertina Brow believes that the attempts of institutions to "convert" anyone to a different form of aesthetic expression, whether "higher" or "lower," is presumptuous and insulting. It is the business of arts organizations to present the broadest possible spectrum of expression within their genre at its highest level of quality, not to attempt to alter individual taste preferences. If a person wants to explore a new art form, he should consult knowledgeable friends for guidance and direction. Under no account should a highbrow be pestered for not drinking Bud Light, or a lowbrow pestered for not listening to Xenakis.

8. The Concertina Brow's natural ally is the Highbrow, who shares his concern to articulate the positive qualities of high culture against its cultural attackers. His natural enemy is the Middlebrow, who seeks to subsume both Highbrows (by shaming them) and Lowbrows (by "converting" them) into an "inclusive" culture, neither fish nor fowl. The Concertina Brow likes Lowbrows too, but he doesn't talk to them about aesthetics.

9. The Concertina Brow objects to all self-conscious "crossover" art as exemplifying a baleful Middlebrow influence. He is reconciled to such efforts only if they acquire a definitive expressive form of their own, which he will then judge on its own merits.

10. The Concertina Brow philosophically accepts today's artistic pluralism as a necessary consequence of the centuries-old broader social trend toward individualism and subjectivity. Any attempt to gather our fragmentary cultural forms into a single monoculture therefore has the character of a utopian fantasy, and is thus extremely dangerous.

11. The Concertina Brow nevertheless affirms the special status of the European "High" tradition in the arts and humanities as one which should be given pride of place in the education system, for three reasons. First, it represents the most significant example of an unbroken literate tradition in human history, and thus has qualities which do not exist in oral or vernacular traditions. Second, it represents the basis of today's cultural and political milieu, for better or for worse, having been either inherited or voluntarily adopted to a significant extent by all of the world's societies. Third, its current underrepresentation in the mass media means that only in the schools will young men and women be exposed to it, even if their ultimate choice will be to reject it.

12. The Concertina Brow objects strongly to manifestos as being prescriptive and tacky.

(with apologies to the author of Radical Orthodoxy: 24 Theses)


Andrew W. said...

This is both hilarious and completely serious at the same time. Bravo!

dveej said...

Does The Concertina Brow have an opinion on referring to oneself in the third person?

Osbert Parsley said...

Hahaha - zing! The Concertina Brow acknowledges that referring to oneself in the third person is horribly pretentious, but feels that this mode of address makes it clear that the Concertina Brow is a general aesthetic position, not an individual personality quirk.

dveej said...

Well, then, how does the Concertina Brow feel about being ADDRESSED in the third person?

Osbert Parsley said...

Perhaps I'm not subtle enough to grasp what you're getting at here. Who is being addressed in the third person? How is it an efficient use of your time to post gnomic blog comments about prose style? What, precisely, is your point?

liz garnett said...

Just thought you'd like to know that you've inspired a post over on Helping You Harmonise with this:

amorvincitomnia said...

In an effort to thoroughly express my own aesthetic manifesto, I have been reading examples that google has lead me to. Well-articulated and humorous! Thank you for sharing.