Dr Andy Hamilton (Durham University, philosophy) will be speaking at the Staff-Postgraduate seminar on Wednesday November 27. The title of his paper is: “The Autonomy of Art and the Heteronomy of Entertainment: Louis Armstrong, Charles Dickens, and Howard Hawks” and he has supplied the following abstract:
Louis Armstrong was a very great musical artist, who always thought of himself first as an entertainer: “My life has been music, it’s always come first, but the music ain’t worth nothing if you can’t lay it on the public”. But he knew that his clowning and crowd-pleasing were compatible with being an artist: “…it’s got to be art because the world has recognised our music from New Orleans, else it would have been dead today”. This lecture argues that, like the modern Western system of the arts, the modern system of entertainment – music-hall, circuses, professional sport… – did not assume definite shape till the 18th or 19th century, though its ingredients were found in classical, medieval and Renaissance periods. It argues that the highest humane art seeks a broad audience, in a way often deemed unique to entertainment. The examples of Louis Armstrong, Charles Dickens and Howard Hawks are contrasted with the more hermetic high art of Lennie Tristano, Marcel Proust and Andrei Tarkovsky.