This is something I've pondered a lot, also not surprisingly inspired by Wagner's The Artwork of the Future (click the link to buy it on Amazon, and PB gets a cut):
Let's consider a simple metaphor for an enduring artwork.
U've got two things basically.
1. The Warrior & 2. The Armor
What is The Warrior?
The warrior is the meat of the thing; it's a work's flesh and bone. If a song (or whatever it is you're making) were are person, how would that person be? Are they strong? Are they educated? Are they well-funded? Do they have a gender? Do they have a religion? Ethnicity? Race? Sexuality? Nationality? What do they look like, like, what's a snapshot of their life and what sort of potential do they have? What sort of weaknesses or disadvantages do they have? Etc., etc., you could go on questioning and describing...
Now, what is the Armor?
The armor is the way that The Warrior is adorned. If Wagner's logic holds true (and it seems to do so generally, that is, with the exception of his thoughts on Judaism), then this would translate to The Warrior's external quality, or what translates to something like "Fashion". (btw Wagner disdains "Fashion" and is like omg I hate fashion, but fml it's really important to suit the style of the time period you live in and the culture from whence you originate) So... What sort of costume are they wearing? How does that costume affect their evolutionary strategy? Like, what might a given "suit of armor" or guise protect our warrior from? Also where is it vulnerable?
Last night we played our first gig in Bushwick. It was basically an experiment to see if we could play covers for two hours. The songs we played were strong, meaty stuff: we represented some of the greatest songs from some of the greatest songwriters of all time. We performed them alright and had way less mishaps than we could have. There's was some trickiness with the sound, but we made it work. Anyway, so we played the greatest songs of the all time for people.
The problem is NOBODY CARED.
Song (The Warrior) = clutch.
How the Song Is Presented (The Armor) = not spectacular.
But why? Because here's what we're doing: we're playing guitars and singing. Do you know how old that activity is? It's fuckin' old. The act of playing a plucked string instrument while singing is basically a Warrior in itself (in fact, I'd argue 100% that it is).
What that in mind,
2 guitars and 2 voices (The Warrior) = clutch.
How 2 guitars and 2 voices is presented (The Armor) = not spectacular.
But what's not spectacular about it has virtually nothing to do with the song's nor the performers' integrity. It has to do with the way it is adorned; we aren't working big-picture enough. We aren't thinking "Fashion"-ability enough.
And then I found my answer. It's right in front of my face and I spend most of my waking hours with it. It's a computer. It's those goddamn robots again. So now we gotta get 'em on our team and figure out how to combine what we're doing (2 guitars and singing) with how it is presented (computerized Armor).
I look forward to the process and the results.