Madrid | Choices of expression

By Limor Shiponi

Museo del Prado can keep one busy for a week or more. The size and richness of its collections is amazing; each exhibit carries loads of artistic information and stories that can be told about it. Since we didn’t have all the time in the world we saw only masterpieces carefully selected by the school master.

Who would you rather be – Diego Velázquez or Francisco Goya?

They were both of good status and acknowledgement, both of great talent and ability, both court painters for the Spanish crown, around 200 years apart. One of the differences between them relates to their choices of expression – what they chose to comment about through their art and how they did it.

Velázquez seems to have chosen to stick to courtly matters although painting some earthly scenes too; Goya seems to have chosen to be the commentator of his period, creating some tantalizing works of art, although paying his duty to the crown. Their style is obviously different, highly mastered in any case.

Francisco Goya, Witches. Source: Wikipedia

Who would you rather be – Joseph Haydn or Ludwig van Beethoven?

Standing between Velázquez and Goya reminded me about Haydn and Beethoven; the first creating within the rules, the second breaking the rules of his time. Did Haydn lack passion and creativity? No, although some people think differently. Haydn wrote some highly expressive pieces; try the first movement of symphony No. 44 for instance – it touches here and there on the dark side. Then go and listen to the first movement of symphony No. 6 by Beethoven – walking the very bright side of life. As the above two, Haydn kept to his ‘organizational’ role, Beethoven often commented about the period.

Who would you rather be as a storyteller?

Obviously, my mind wondered in this direction too. Once upon a time there were storytellers who worked for courts. What could be their choices of expression concerning the above? Let’s assume (also because we have the evidence) that some of them chose flattery and praise but also touched upon earthly issues once in a while – not all ancient stories praise heroes and kings; some of them criticize them heavily and get them into quite a lot of trouble. At the same time we know from evidence that there were storytellers who chose to speak from their subconscious which cannot be completely tamed or always ‘nice’; some chose to tell difficult stories. If you remember that storytelling happens together with a live audience sitting only meters apart from you – that was quite a bumpy ride, a strong, somewhat dangerous endeavor that required the ability to channel a lot of difficult feelings while leaving the audience almost intact.

Who would you rather be as a storyteller now-days? Court tellers – well, I don’t know if any exist anymore but modern life still confronts us with hierarchal situations and entities one might think need to be pleased. What path of expression would you choose?

3 thoughts on “Madrid | Choices of expression”

  1. Goya, Beethoven every time. Slightly surprised how easily the answer comes, I didn’t need to think about it at all! Good question.
    In the context of storytelling, for me the hierachy is partly one of competing media, and notions about ‘the cutting edge’ and similar hateful (to me, I hasten to add) notions about creativity.
    Things have moved on to such an extent that it often seems to me that the live, direct and un-mediated nature of storytelling is the truly radical thing…and this from a self-confessed tech-head!
    In social and political terms, I suppose the heirachy/establishment against which one kicks from time to time (oh, all right, I admit it, all the time) could be held to be the morass of nonsense around ‘political correctness’
    The old stories can be dark, cruel and deeply unpleasant – but always for a purpose, if there’s anything gratuitous there it comes from me (in deep error) or the audience. This runs so counter to prevailing tropes that it resonates very strongly with me, was part of the reason I started telling in the first place, I suspect.
    Don’t get me started…. 🙂

    1. I had the feeling this post will make you tick 🙂 storytelling IS the truly radical thing and I’m happy to tell you that in the world of cutting-crappy-edge-marketing they are just reaching the exact breath-taking notion! such geniuses! all we need to do is wait and see how they intend to facilitate what they call ‘human media’. I already have the strange feeling they are in the wrong direction… good idea for a post though 🙂
      ‘Political correctness’ but of course. Do me a favor – stay the way you are. Although we were never told what happened to the little boy who called “the king is naked” I feel his destiny wasn’t that bad and that he did have a couple of friends although they didn’t accumulate to 4,999.

      1. Am I that predictable? Oh well, not a hard one to call, really 🙂 Way too late for me to be changing in that respect, I suspect/hope.
        ‘What happened to the boy who pointed at the king?’ – fabulous question, best for ages….not sure what, or where an answer might be, but it’s the kind of question that gets all kinds of possibilities fizzing and popping!
        I’ll let you know if anything sensible emerges from the froth (by no means guaranteed !)

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