On Separating the Art from the Artist

by ROBERTA KELLER

I was rather recently informed of a horrid detail that was prominent in the history of the popular Swedish band ABBA.  Apparently, the lead singer, Agnetha Fältskog, suffered from a serious fear of performing.  She combated this fear throughout her career with alcohol, traumatizing her body and mind.  With this information now added to my schema of the band, a favorite of mine to casually listen to, I did not know how to respond.  

I immediately questioned whether my appreciation of the music should suffer because of the artist’s suffering.  How can I enjoy art that I know caused the artist pain? However, after further analysis, I am led to accept that the emotions of the artist are critical to the musical expression. I previously believed that a lot of music can be enjoyable, and the artist of this enjoyable music should be considered separate from their work, as long as the artist is not discredited.  This statement covers the majority of the music I listen to.

However, I will admit that some art is bettered when considering the artist’s attitude and experiences.  The point of this conjecture is to attempt to formulate a decision on whether or not art should really be considered separate from the artist, but it is not that simple.  Naturally, all this discussion has brought me to is further questions.