Yeah, I hope nobody’s been reading this and dying for me to post, because it’s not gonna be much more frequent than it’s been, sorry to say.
But it also won’t be never again. I just haven’t had the time to write (non-volleyball) lately, much less write about writing. But I’ve got a topic I’m burning about right now.
That topic, as is the title, is interpretations. Here’s one my very favourite songs in the whole wide world:
Hang on, hold the phone.
Who is Orzabal to decide what the song is and is not about?
This may come across controversial, I don’t know. But I don’t think artists get to decide the one and only “correct” meaning for their works. Art, in all forms, means different things to different people. How is one any more correct than another? Orzabal can say political protest is his intended meaning for the song, and the way he himself would interpret it, but the simple fact that he wrote the song doesn’t in my mind give him licence to say what a right and wrong interpretation are. How can there be a wrong interpretation? That’s kinda what ‘interpretation’ means, figuring something out. And that ‘something’ will always be specific to the person doing the figuring.
Another band I like is Seether (vastly different genre). On the interview for their One Cold Night acoustic concert DVD, interviewer Pierre Robert asked Seether’s principal (only?) songwriter Shaun Morgan about this, and I love Shaun’s answer. He says he hates to reveal what his songs are “really” about (he even seemed to give the verbal scare quotes when saying those words), because, yes, they mean different things to different people.
But he also had a secondary reason that just blew my mind.
“What if my answer sucks?”
Man, that takes some humility, to admit that’s even possible. He doesn’t want to risk ruining a song that could have great meaning to someone by telling them that he really wrote it about nothing, or something mundane or even disgusting.
My philosophy is that a song, a movie, a play, a painting, a poem, a book….they’re all things that exist. Someone acted as a conduit to be able to bring them to the masses (maybe this sounds incredibly snooty, but I often feel like I’m “discovering” my stories rather than actively creating them), but that doesn’t mean they know anything more about them than anyone else.
I’m aware there’s a flip side to this. The first movie I’m ever going to shoot, a short called The House Call, potentially lends itself to a virulently misandrist (anti-men) interpretation. And that’s not what I’m going for at all. But I think that’s a risk I have to take when putting it out there. Somebody might see the short and hate it, thinking I hate men. They’re wrong about me hating men and I’d be disappointed if that’s what they took from the short, but it can’t really go much further than that. It would be what the film meant to that person. And maybe I’d lose somebody. But hopefully it would never be more than a minority opinion.
So I hope authors, singers, playwrights, poets, screenwriters, painters, sculptors, etc everywhere create wonderful thought-provoking art. And then don’t ruin it by telling everyone what it’s “really” about.