What Good Is Art In Disaster?

“Orchestras are starting to program benefit concerts. And at some point, it will seem appropriate for a composer to put perspective to Katrina with a piece that is to this horror in New Orleans what John Adams’ On the Transmigration of Souls was to 9/11. In the meantime, a Schubert Mass in G won’t save lives, a Brahms German Requiem won’t comfort the victim, and no artwork will assuage the guilt many may likely feel as the arts season gets under way and we find ourselves slipping into enjoyment mode, even as misery continues for hundreds of thousands of others. For those of us who chronicle culture, that wondrous residue of civilization that plucks immortality from life’s daily flotsam and jetsam, the last few years have shaken our idea of permanence.”