Similar to the problem with translating
poetry is the problem in trying to present old works of art in modern times.
Many wish to present a Shakespeare play or Beethoven symphony
the way it was originally presented, and there are regular complaints
about colorizing old black and white movies.
Advocates of historically original presentation often refer
to a work of art presented in the
original manner as being "authentic."
There are a variety of problems and dilemmas in the presentation
of old works. For example, the original work or presentation
can be less then authentic to the subject in ways. Shakespeare's
plays were originally presented using only male actors. Juliet
was performed by a boy dressed as a girl. Most would argue that
this part of the original presentation is less authentic than
today's practice of using actresses.
Similarly, a grandfather clock chimes in Shakespeare's historical
drama Julius Caesar, though the grandfather clock had
not been yet invented in Ceasar's time. Some would argue that
fixing this historical error would make the play more authentic.
Others would counter that, while the clock is clearly a historical
error, the play was intended as a work of art not a historical
document, and 'fixing' every detail could make the play less
authentic aesthetically. They might point out that a Cezanne
painting of an apple is supposed to represent an apple not look
like a apple photographed, and those who would criticize the
image for not being photorealistic miss the point of the painting.
Some modernization can improve an old work of art. Improved
technology can make Gone With The Wind look and sound
clearer in the theatre today than it did in 1939. It would be
a safe bet that Paul McCartney would prefer to listen The Beatles
songs on a CD player rather of a 1965 record player. Listening
to the 1965 record player is more authentic to listening to the
music on 1965 record player, but listening to a remastered CD
is more authentic to listening to the original music.
I'll bet you that some old time Beatles fan out there has
an unplugged vintage record player sitting on top of his CD player.
This way he gets the old time ambiance and the modern sound.
Presenting an old work must take into context the audience,
its culture and sensibilities, as a play, movie, novel or painting
is a presentation to an audience. The language of Shakespeare's
plays was the language of the original audience. It is not the
native language of today's audience. The use of boy actors in
female parts won't be viewed in the same way as an original audience
viewed it. Boys playing girls and women would at the least distract
most to all in a modern audience.
Even when presented 'authentically' (exactly as originally
presented), the average people of today won't view a work of
art authentically as they won't experience it as the original
(authentic) audience did. Making some modernizations, such as
using women in women's parts in Shakespeare plays, can make the
modern audience's experience closer to the original audience's
Some recreations are less concerned with the art as the history.
Even if the sound itself is considered weak and unorthodox to
modern ears, performing a Mozart symphony using period instruments,
hall, dress and manners may be of great enlightenment and enjoyment
to a modern audience, especially if the audience itself participates
in the recreation by dressing and acting historically.
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