Dylan’s “Hard Rain” is immortal, and would be had Dylan remained obscure.
Yet had people responded less than feverishly, had they not praised this song, had Allen Ginsberg not declared it a “passing of the torch”—had artists not rallied around Dylan—lyrics such as “I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard” would have been great, though perhaps not revolutionary.
Sometimes artists create revolutionary work—but the revolution proves innocuous.
If we consider the response to Jeff Mangum’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea against that of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, only the music appears comparable. Mangum sells out concerts in less than an hour, but the influence Dylan bestowed on multiple generations is missing.
One could argue Dylan’s superiority as responsible for this discrepancy, but the question is not whether Dylan is a better songwriter. Has anyone since Dylan written better songs than Mangum?
Since Aeroplane was released, seventeen years ago, there has been precious little art of similar quality.
Mangum’s influence is missing in the ubiquitous “folk music” praised by teenage “artists” living off their parents’ credit and suburban mothers “earning” exorbitant sums, longing for music that sounds “back to the Earth.”
This is emulation: fabricated quasi-art for demographics steeped in formulaic preference. It alone proliferates.
Yet even if artists gain meager support, there is a chance.
If more supported art—regardless of talent—quality would improve.
If art were back in demand, there would be more artists.
More artists (total) would yield genius.
Support art you revere as fully as possible. Purchase, donate, read, write, listen, display, visit; above all, share.
Humans control regression. It cannot happen without our consent. Priorities changed, but they will again.
We are waiting for a masterpiece. But masterpieces have appeared. We praised them yet failed to support.
It would be no less “masterful” to create from prior genius. This broadens the impact of masterpieces. Perhaps it furthers a movement.
Supporting art makes it masterful in the first place.