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a look at how humans think and see

6) Presenting Old Works of Art "Authentically"
by David Rudd Cycleback

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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Others would counter that, while the clock is clearly a historical error, the play was intended as a work of art not a historical document, and 'fixing' every detail could make the play less authentic aesthetically.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 experience.

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. of contents

(c) david rudd cycleback, all rights reserved


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