Ross: What has become of the Kennedy Center Honors?

Posted on: September 11, 2014

On Wednesday (9/10) at the New Yorker website, Alex Ross writes about the recently announced 2014 Kennedy Center Honors, which “began promisingly enough, in 1978, seven years after the Kennedy Center opened.…  In the early years, bona-fide stars on the order of Cary Grant, Henry Fonda, and Frank Sinatra were outnumbered by the likes of Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Martha Graham, Leontyne Price, and Tennessee Williams.… Soon enough, though, the balance began to shift toward the celebrity elect. Choices became more head-scratching: Perry Como? Charlton Heston? Oprah Winfrey, with her occasional film roles? … This is not to suggest that recent Kennedy Center honorees are undeserving of praise, to one degree or another.… But they hardly lack for laurels. Why should they add to their shelf a prize that could have gone to a comparatively unsung figure such as Meredith Monk, who, as singer, dancer, composer, director, and filmmaker, is as close to a complete performing artist as American culture offers? The logic that has taken hold of the Honors is one of pop triumphalism: it’s not enough for pop culture to dominate the mainstream; it must colonize the spaces occupied by older genres and effectively drive them from the field.”

Posted September 11, 2014