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Definition of masterpiece is relative

Definition of masterpiece is relative
November 29, 2008, 01:51:54 AM
What is a masterpiece? That's a perennial question suited to abstruse philosophical contemplation and late-night dorm-room bull sessions. No answer will satisfy everyone or endure the test of time, even the answer that a masterpiece is a work that has endured the test of time.

Time itself is relative, and one era may dismiss the masterpiece of a previous age or promote to the highest rank something "unfairly" neglected, or even unknown, before.


Translation: the definition is relative to the health/sanity of the individual/society.

In a dying age, Jay-Z and Nas may be masterpieces; in a healthier time, they would be "noise."

Human knowing is independent of reality itself.

A useful thought when we approach metal, because all sane people think masterpieces are eternal. They are, if you're sane, smart and aware.

Others may not share those attributes or inclinations.

Re: Definition of masterpiece is relative
November 29, 2008, 05:30:51 AM
Words are subject to inflation; "masterpiece" is one of the saddest examples, because popular magazines, papers and critics present us with some new "masterpiece" every month, if not every week.

Thus the word has ceased to mean anything interesting.

I find as one of the best things about sites such as anus.com and scaruffi.com the fact that they have the self restraint to apply the word "masterpiece" to less than 50 releases in history, thus avoiding the pit of meaninglessness.

Re: Definition of masterpiece is relative
November 29, 2008, 07:28:32 AM
Use master morality. The term masterpiece, like nihilism and nationalism, should be reclaimed from the crowd. Don't let a diseased civilization own any great ideas. That's like letting the swine trample the pearls into the mud.

Re: Definition of masterpiece is relative
November 29, 2008, 08:47:27 AM
In the case of literature:

Why Read the Classics?
Italo Calvino

1.  The classics are the books of which we usually hear people say, "I am rereading . . . " and never "I am reading . . . "

2.  We use the words "classics" for books that are treasured by those who have read and loved them; but they are treasured no less by those who have the luck to read them for the first time in the best conditions to enjoy them

3.  The classics are books that exert a peculiar influence, both when they refuse to be eradicated from the mind and when they conceal themselves in the folds of memory, camouflaging themselves as the collective or individual unconscious.

4.  Every rereading of a classic is as much a voyage of discovery as the first reading.

5.  Every reading of a classic is in fact a rereading.

6.  A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.

7.  The classics are the books that come down to us bearing the traces of readings previous to ours, and bringing in their wake the traces they themselves have left on the culture or cultures they have passed through (or, more simply, on language and customs).

8.  A classic does not necessarily teach us anything we did not know before. In a classic we sometimes discover something we have always known (or thought we knew), but without knowing that this author said it first, or at least is associated with it in a special way. And this, too, is a surprise that gives much pleasure, such as we always gain from the discovery of an origin, a relationship, an affinity.

9.  The classics are books which, upon reading, we find even fresher, more unexpected, and more marvelous than we had thought from hearing about them.

10.  We use the word "classic" of a book that takes the form of an equivalent to the universe, on a level with the ancient talismans. With this definition we are approaching the idea of the "total book," as Mallarmé conceived of it.

11.  Your classic author is the one you cannot feel indifferent to, who helps you to define yourself in relation to him, even in dispute with him.

12.  A classic is a book that comes before other classics; but anyone who has read the others first, and then reads this one, instantly recognizes its place in the family tree.

13.  A classic is something that tends to relegate the concerns of the moment to the status of background noise, but at the same time this background noise is something we cannot do without.

14.  A classic is something that persists as a background noise even when the most incompatible momentary concerns are in control of the situation.

Italo Calvino
"Why Read the Classics" (excerpt)
from The Uses of Literature

God forbid we try to define the words 'masterpiece,' 'classic,' or any word for that manner using more than one to three sentences, or just a bunch of synonyms.  Dictionaries aren't good references for definitions.