The Art Assignment


Five Favorite Works of Art with Jon Cozart

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

AIRED: December 05, 2017 | 0:08:11

NARRATOR: This is Jon Cozart.

Hey there.

NARRATOR: This is Jon's workspace, featuring

his hyper organized, minimalist bulletin board,

but it's a multipurpose room.

It doubles as where I sleep and also where I work and cry.

NARRATOR: 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.

Now I'm leaning into long form narrative

stuff like television, movies, and maybe musicals.

Who knows?

I have an existential crisis about it every day.

NARRATOR: We're not worried.

Jon is a super talented musician who

has many irons in the proverbial fire,

but to the matter at hand.

Here are five of my favorite works of art.

The musical "Spring Awakening."

NARRATOR: "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.

"Spring Awakening" is this musical

about these kids who are coming of age in the 1800s.

NARRATOR: 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.

I don't want to say I was in 1800s Germany

or wherever the hell it's set, but I

was in the Bible Belt in the south,

and 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 shocking.

It was shocking to me.

Mozart's Requiem in D Minor.

If you listen to Mozart's music compared to Bach, or Beethoven,

or the other greats, he just sounds a lot more silly,

I guess, or like he's more of a theatrical presence.

NARRATOR: So then, why the Requiem?

Requiem is my favorite work by Mozart

because he was facing death when he wrote it,

and so it's look at the silly man who

has 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.

NARRATOR: Indeed, Mozart began composing the mass in 1791,

but it was unfinished when he died that same year.

Composer Franz Sussmayr completed it in 1792

based on Mozart's notes.

While the work was actually commissioned

by Franz von Walsegg to memorialize the count's wife's

recent passing, Mozart told his wife

he felt he was writing it for his own funeral.

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-- I don't know.

No work is more affecting to me.

NARRATOR: Should I just, like, download it

on iTunes or something?

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

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 because it's

the quintessential 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.

NARRATOR: How would you explain the plot

to, say, your grandmother?

JON COZART: It's a journey of a hobbit trying

to destroy the ultimate embodiment of evil.

It's easy.

There you go, grandma.

NARRATOR: OK, but why do you like it so much?

I mean, there's no doubt it's one of the most gorgeous movies

ever made, and certainly it was pushing the boundaries

of visual effects at the time.

It was inventing all this new technology

to make battles more epic.

NARRATOR: 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.

And it's-- it's a populist, entertaining, sludgefest.

It just is cheesy, and stupid, and really, really profound.

It defies description.

The tomorrow speech from Shakespeare's "Macbeth."

NARRATOR: 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.

So it's in Act V. It's at the end of all things.

Basically this character Macbeth--

his wife has just committed suicide,

and all of his ambition has sort of gone to rot.

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


All right, 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 of 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 like a person who is 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 huge irony because obviously Macbeth

is played by an actor.

Shakespeare is a writer, and he wrote the actor

to talk about how life is like an actor playing a part.

And then after he comes off the stage, he's dead,

and then another actor will come on.

And it's just cyclical and stupid,

and it's a lot of noise.

It's a lot of sound.

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

NARRATOR: And this is inspiring for you?

When I'm feeling depressed or things

are worthless or nothing, I can't put that into words.

I can't put--

I can't describe it, but this does it

because Shakespeare is a genius.

The fact that he could experience depression

in this way, and also get through it,

and dramatize it, and also do it in a setting

400 years ago in a hot day at the end of a three hour play

is shocking.

And it's super inspiring, even though it's

supposed to be depressing.

Bill Wurtz's "History of Japan."

NARRATOR: 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.

So it's like a compilation of 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 dumbs.

NARRATOR: But it isn't dumb, and you should really

go watch it or rewatch it.

It's so perfect that--

that's-- I watch it every day.

What am I supposed to--

I can wake up, browse Twitter, or I

could watch "History of Japan" for the 100th time,

which, of course, I go watch "History of Japan."

NARRATOR: Deceptively simple, it's

much more than, in Jon's words, a garbage PowerPoint.

It's this piece of work that's distinctly internet friendly

and also does something that no other piece of art

has done before.

It's a product of its time like I

don't think most of YouTube is.

NARRATOR: So if "The History of Japan" is art,

how do you define a work of art?

To me, a work of art is 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.

That's a work of art.

NARRATOR: Thanks, Jon.

No, thank you guys.

This was fun.

Thanks for coming into my little house.


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