Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

Bulldogs — and Symphonies are Ineffable

I’m sure this article about dogs might strike you as unexpected for this blog. The World’s Best Dogs, as determined by a “data journalist and information designer” (what does that even mean?). What caught my eye was the last line of the first paragraph: “What dog breed is quantitatively the best?”

Based on quantification, this person has decided that there is a “best” dog breed. (No spoilers here.) I say that’s pure poppycock. Bulldogs rate low on the list. I grew up with bulldogs and had hours and hours of unquantifiable joy with them.

In the arts, we must quantify everything to report back to funders to justify the case for our existence. (Evan, may I borrow your soap box?) I do think that a certain level of accountability is a must. However, how can we quantify the ineffable transformative power of the arts – especially when those effects may not be felt for a decade or more?

Apologies to other arts disciplines (who are all transformative in their own ways), but one of my favorite quotes is:
Music
speaks what cannot be expressed
soothes the mind and gives it rest
heals the heart and makes it whole
flows from heaven to the soul

That is something which cannot be quantified, nor can a value be placed on it.

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3 comments on “Bulldogs — and Symphonies are Ineffable

  1. shrulala
    November 20, 2014

    Is it not rather what we expect in men, that they should have numerous strands of experience lying side by side and never compare them with each other? (George Eliot)

  2. torisharbaugh
    November 21, 2014

    I definitely agree that a certain level of accountability is necessary. People prefer to see answers in black and white. I think that is where research really plays an important role. But of course, the true power of the arts does not lie in quantifiable terms.

    While we are on this quote theme, here is one of my favorite music quotes (in a similar vein to yours, Benjamen):

    “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent” – Victor Hugo

  3. carolynsupinka18
    November 21, 2014

    Have you guys read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s essay, Beauty Will Save The World? It’s floating around on the interwebs somewhere and is worth a read. He wrote this when he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. In it, he talks about art’s power to transform the world, through both individuals and communities.

    http://www.mro.org/mr/archive/24-2/articles/beauty.html

    The title is taken from a line from Dostoevsky’s ‘The Idiot.” I have a lot to say about this subject that won’t fit in a blog comment, but these are some of the things I’m thinking about when I try to address this question.

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