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Duration:08:44
Uploaded:2017-08-24
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Jon Cozart talks to us about classical music, internet videos, Lord of the Rings, and of course, musicals. Here are Jon's five favorite works of art:

1) Spring Awakening
2) Mozart's Requiem in D Minor, K. 626
3) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
4) The "Tomorrow" soliloquy from Shakespeare's Macbeth
5) History of Japan by Bill Wurtz: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mh5LY4Mz15o

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 (00:00) to (02:00)


(PBS Digital Studios logo)

Sarah: This is Jon Cozart.

Jon: Hey, there.  

Sarah: This is Jon's workspace, featuring his hyper-organized, minimalist bulletin board, but it's a multipurpose room.  

Jon: It like, doubles as where I sleep and also where I work and cry.

Sarah: He may look familiar to you from his Disney parodies, progressive Christmas carols, history of classical music, or brutal takedown of YouTube culture that he shared through his YouTube channel paint, but he hasn't been posting there lately.

Jon: Now I'm like, leaning into, like, long-form narrative stuff like television, movies, and maybe musicals.  Who knows!  I have an existential crisis about it every day!  

Sarah: We're not worried.  Jon is a super talented musician who has many irons in the proverbial fire, but to the matter at hand.

Jon: Here are five of my favorite works of art.

The musical "Spring Awakening".

Sarah: "Spring Awakening" is a rock musical with book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik.  It debuted on Broadway in 2006, was a huge hit, and has given rise to productions around the world.

Jon: "Spring Awakening" is like this musical about these kids who are coming of age in like, the 1800s. 

Sarah: It's based on a play by Frank Wedekind, completed in 1891, confronting the realities of teenagers growing up in the very religious and sexually repressive environment of late 19th century Germany.  It was hugely controversial and rarely performed at the time.  Sorry, Jon, back to you.

Jon: I don't want to like, say I was in 1800s Germany or wherever the hell it's set, but I was like, in the Bible Belt in the South and like, there were things about my life that I couldn't express.  Being an adolescent, it feels like nobody understands me, like I'm experiencing something that literally no one on the planet has ever experienced, and then to have this musical reflect my reality was like, it was shocking.  It was shocking to me.

Mozart's Requiem in D Minor.  If you listen to Mozart's music compared to like, Bach or Beethoven or the other greats, he just sounds a lot more like, silly, I guess.

 (02:00) to (04:00)


Or like he's more of a theatrical presence.

Sarah: So then why the Requiem?

Jon: Requiem's my favorite work by Mozart because he was facing death when he wrote it and so it's this look at this silly man who's like, spent his entire career being sort of a rapscallion and then he has to write this Requiem, which is like a death march or a funeral march.

Sarah: Indeed, Mozart began composing the mass in 1791, but it was unfinished when he died that same year.  Composer (?~2:27) completed it in 1792 based on Mozart's notes.  While the work was actually commissioned by (?~2:35) to memorialize the Count's wife's recent passing, Mozart told his wife he felt he was writing it for his own funeral.

Jon: And there's something so dramatic and so theatrical about that, and then if you look at the music itself compared to other Requiems, it's beautiful.  I don't, I don't know.  No work is more affecting to me.  

Sarah: Should I just like, download it on iTunes or something?

Jon: If you have an opportunity to see any piece of classical music live, you should go and see it, especially Mozart's Requiem, because it's like a choir of just a ton of people and there are four soloists and there's this giant group of instruments and everybody is like, they have their game face, 'cause it's like, the quintessential like, dramatic piece that people play.

The movie The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.  This is the movie that taught me what storytelling epically was.  

Sarah: How would you explain the plot to say, your grandmother?

Jon: It's a journey of a Hobbit trying to destroy the ultimate embodiment of evil.  Easy!  There you go, Grandma!  

Sarah: Okay, but why do you like it so much?

Jon: I mean, there's no doubt it's one of the most gorgeous movies ever made and certainly was pushing the boundaries of like, visual effects at the time.  It was like inventing all this new technology to make battles more epic.

Sarah: Released in 2003, The Return of The King swept the 76th Academy Awards, winning Best Visual Effects, Best Art Direction, and all 11 categories for which it was nominated.

 (04:00) to (06:00)


Jon: And it's like, it's a populist, entertaining, like, sludgefest.  Like, it just is cheesy and stupid and really, really profound.  I--it's--I--it defies description.  

The Tomorrow speech from Shakespeare's Macbeth.

Sarah: Did we tell you how much Jon likes Shakespeare?  Anyway, the tragedy of Macbeth was written around 1606 and tells the story of a Scottish general, Macbeth, who receives a prophecy that he will become the king of Scotland.  He succeeds, but only through murder and mayhem that wracks him with guilt and leads to his undoing, which leads us to the soliloquy.

Jon: So it's in Act V, it's at the end of all things, and basically this character Macbeth, his wife has just committed suicide and all of his ambition has sort of gone to rot.  

Sarah: Jon, would you do us the honor of reading it?

Jon: Sure.  Alright, so this is how it goes from the top.  "She should have died hereafter.  There would have been a time for such a word: tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.  Creeps in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time, and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death.  Out, out, brief candle.  Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.  It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing."  The end of this monologue, Macbeth is saying life is life a person who's on a stage acting life.  It's just as hollow as a person who acts it in front of people and it's like this, this huge irony because obviously Macbeth is played by an actor.  Shakespeare's a writer and he wrote the actor to talk about how life is like an actor playing a part and then after he like, comes off the stage, he's dead and then another actor will come on and like, it's just like cyclical and stupid and it's like a lot of noise.

 (06:00) to (08:00)


It's a lot of sound, it's a lot of fury, and ultimately, it comes to nothing.

Sarah: And this is inspiring for you?

Jon: When I'm feeling depressed or like things are worthless or nothing, I can't put that into words.  I can't describe it, but this does it, because Shakespeare's a genius.  Like the fact that he can experience depression in this way and also get through it and like, dramatize it and also do it in like a setting 400 years ago in like a hot day at the end of like, a three hour play, is shocking and it's like, super inspiring, even though it's supposed to be depressing.

Bill Wurtz's "History of Japan"

Sarah: Bill Wurtz published this video to YouTube on February 2, 2016 and it has since been viewed more than 31 million times.  In precisely nine minutes, he animates and narrates the entire history of Japan.

Jon: So it's like, a compilation of like, 400 Vines all having to do with Japan and its history.  It's really weird and if I were to pitch that to you and you'd never seen it, you would probably not go watch it.  It sounds dumb.

Sarah: But it isn't dumb and you should really go watch it, or rewatch it.

Jon: It's so perfect that like, that's--I watch it every day.  Like, what am I supposed to--I could wake up, browse Twitter, or I could watch "History of Japan" for the 100th time, which, of course I watch "History of Japan".

Sarah: Deceptively simple, it's much more than, in Jon's words, "a garbage powerpoint".

Jon: It's this piece of work that's distinctly internet-friendly and also does something that like, no other piece of art has done before.  It's like a product of its time, like, I don't think most of YouTube is.

Sarah: So if the "History of Japan" is art, how do you define a work of art?

Jon: To me, a work of art is like a baring of some person's soul that is emotionally affecting to the viewer, so you make something so that someone else can feel something.  

 (08:00) to (08:44)


That's a work of art.

Sarah: Thanks, Jon.  

Jon: No, thank you guys.  This was fun.  Thanks for coming in to my little house.

Sarah: The Art Assignment is funded in part by viewers like you, through patreon.com, a subscription-based platform that allows you to support creators you like in the form of a monthly donation.  Special thanks to our grand master of the arts, Indianapolis Homes Realty.  If you'd like to support the show, check out our page at patreon.com/artassignment.  

(Endscreen/Credits)