What Makes A Classic, Classic by Matthew Slater

There's a word that's doing the rounds right now. It's everywhere you go nowadays and everyone is using it. It is the very definition of our time. Zeitgeist. Critics of film, art and music are all trying to tell us that this particular piece is a defining moment - right now. That we are all experiencing something momentus, something extraordinary - as it happens, live. It doesn't quite work like that though. For something to really define a time, or an era – it needs to have a lasting impression on its audience, a legacy. It needs to be experienced at the time, and to later still be held in high regard. Classic albums and classic songs are just that - classic. They are the moment when somebody said something relevant, at the right time and upon looking back that moment is seen to be great. It's when one song, one concert, one gesture becomes a significant piece of history. This can be in the forming of a genre, in a record breaking achievement, or in someone's last work. Moreso than this, there can be artists that are forerunners in their chosen genre, expanding out every which way and creating some truly innovative and ground breaking work. Ultimately though, it's the combination of being in the right place, at the right time. In the literary world there is this idea of both new and modern classics, indicating in a way that the older "classic" works are rock solid, undisputed, gold. That there are these behemoths that can't be moved, these gargantuan creatures that just won't budge – not for love nor money can we tar the reputation of these works. The modern classics, on the other hand, must quietly serve their time before achieving gold classic status. There are many, many artists and albums and songs that are one hit wonders, nothing but a flash in the pan before quickly fizzling out. Although the two aren't mutually exclusive, classic and artist longevity go together well. Classic works are either particularly definitive works representing the artist at their best or the zeitgeist of a single genre, the best spokesman possible. It can be simple, or it can be layered; it can be fast or it can be slow; and it can be happy, or it can be sad. Whatever "it" is, there is only one thing "it" requires to be a defining classic. Its finger on the pulse.