Sandlund: The Arts Strike Back

The College can improve by offering more creative outlets to students.

by William Sandlund | 5/23/17 12:30am

The two terms I took creative classes at Dartmouth stand apart in my memory. They were in the spring and summer terms, and the nice weather played a part in my heightened sense of well-being. But there was something stress-relieving about being graded for creating as opposed to analyzing. Instead of answering questions, I was exploring their meanings. One assignment asked that I write about a problem from a friend’s perspective. I ended up writing a cathartic short story where I articulated my homesickness for Singapore and high school.

At the time, I didn’t even think it was helpful; I just needed to write a story for class. This particular topic was simply the first thing I thought of. I wrote out the whole thing in one sitting. It is not a good story — there are moments of subtlety, but for the most part it is clearly the work of a confused 19 year old. Yet now when I think back to freshman spring, I have memories of sunlight and class in Sanborn House, daydreaming about stories.

I feel nostalgic for that term I was directed to express emotions. There is a perfect balance between distance and proximity that allows for the expression of certain emotions. Once you have achieved whatever you aimed to express, the feeling recedes from you. It may be the fear of not finding something else that will move you as much. Once you have articulated that feeling, you understand that it made you feel alive in a way that is now confined to words on paper, indelibly recorded in the moment of crisis and now duller.

I subsequently took a film class to recapture what I had that spring. I learned to appreciate the art of editing and met Warren Schorr ’18, a musician who goes by Ticker Tape on Bandcamp. We discussed art and Dartmouth’s creative scene.

WSa: Do you think being an artist is solitary?

WSc: No, go to Wesleyan [University].

WSa: So you think being an artist at Wesleyan is less lonely than being an artist at Dartmouth?

WSc: Oh yeah dude, are you kidding me?

WSa: You don’t think there’s something inherent to creating things that is solitary?

WSc: No. I think one might say rowing [and] endurance sports are solitary because ultimately what you can do is how fast you can do it on your own. Here it is more solitary than it needs to be because people don’t care as much. Wesleyan, there’s a very big music scene, [New York University] has a very big music scene. I think it’s something kids should know before coming here.

WSa: You don’t think you gain anything from being one of the few people here who cares a lot about creative things? That in a way it allows you to expand out more than you otherwise could?

WSc: The one thing it’s forced me to do is learn how to do everything myself because I just don’t have the choice. I think if I did have the choice I would just get lazy and rely more on other people. It forced me to learn different instruments and learn production techniques.

WSa: But there’s no competition here, and isn’t that in itself kind of a nice thing for you? Or do you think that’s ridiculous? To think people would be competitive and cutthroat creatively?

WSc: I think it’s hard for nerds to bully other nerds.

WSa: But do you think that there are downsides to being part of a creative scene?

WSc: I think with artsy groups of people, from what I’ve seen, I get irritated when I hear some of them talk about music. Some of them are posers.

WSa: Do you find that depressing?

WSc: Yeah I totally do, because then it becomes kind of fake.

WSa: So it becomes a brand in itself. They have a brand now. Remember that guy we talked to? He was talking about his music, and he was very self-satisfied about the whole thing.

WSc: I think a part of it is that some people don’t really care about what they’re making, but it’s just a label that defines them. I guess so that they can say they’re an artist, but they don’t care about what they’re actually making. I think the only way to make good art is to be self-critical and if you’re not, you end up being a poser.

WSa: Do you think there’s a balance between taking pride in your work and being self-critical? Can you be self-critical and take pride in your work?

WSc: Kanye West.

WSa: You think he does that?

WSc: He says he’s the greatest of all time, but he still asked Seth Rogen what he thought of his album.

WSa: Is there anything else you want to talk about, Warren? Anything else you want to get off your breast?

WSc: Off my breast?

WSa: Yeah.

WSc [after chewing a Nutter Butter for a long time]: No. I just wish this school had more resources for making music. That’s my only complaint.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.