The musical performed 60 seconds at a time

Idle hands: many have turned to TikTok for an escape from lockdown pressures

Can a TikTok video be high art? A new musical produced entirely on TikTok has some wondering if the platform could revolutionise our culture – but others think it is just a passing craze.

Theatres stand empty, victims of Covid-19. But musicians are finding new ways to showcase their work. On TikTok, music can go from upload to viral in hours.

Singer Abigail Barlow and writing partner Emily Bear are using it to write a full-length musical based on Netflix’s Bridgerton.

Some argue real art cannot be created on TikTok. Others argue new technologies are fertile ground for innovative art forms.

Once, books were written by hand.

In 1440, the printing press revolutionised print. It allowed ordinary people to start writing their own works.

Mass printing meant people could make a living from writing. This led to the novel.

The same happened with the invention of the camera. Previously, artists worked for years to make paintings as realistic as possible. Then, audiences could get a photograph for a fraction of the price.

Artists complained photos were a lesser form of art.

Photography soon became an art form in its own right.

By the 1930s, photography was widely respected as art.

In the 20th Century, television emerged as a challenge to traditional films. Culture buffs complained that the mini-series was an inferior art form. Today, series can win high praise from film critics.

Some think TikTok might go through the same process. They claim it will transform our understanding of art.

Can a TikTok video be high art?

Broken arted

Yes. New technology follows a cycle. Traditionalists complain that a new invention is destroying art. Art adapts to the new technology. The technology becomes an art form. TikTok is the most recent example of this.

Not at all. Real art requires time and dedication. TikTok favours mass-production. It is hostile territory for creativity. Because its culture is ironic and self-aware, it produces variations on existing ideas, not original material.

You Decide

  1. Would you still go to the cinema if you could watch a whole film on TikTok?


  1. Think of your favourite TV show, and write a ballad about one of its key moments or characters.

Some People Say...

“The machine does not isolate man from the great problems of nature but plunges him more deeply into them.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900 - 1944), French novelist

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Most people agree that apps like TikTok can have negative effects on the brain. Because they offer so much speed, variety and instant gratification, cycling through as many as four videos a minute, some have suggested that spending too much time on TikTok can reduce a user’s attention span and discourage them from less varied and exciting forms of entertainment – like reading – which require more patience. As much as 10% of the global population is now addicted to social media.
What do we not know?
There is some debate over whether “high” and “low” culture are really separate things. Historian Peter Burke argues that in the 17th Century, cultural elites separated themselves from the masses, developing their own distinct art forms and dismissing the culture of the poor. But philosopher Muriel Barbery thinks that today, this process has reversed: cultural elites are expected to take an interest in both high and popular culture, and the distinction between them has collapsed.

Word Watch

An innovation is a new idea, method or device that provides a new approach to an old job or task.
Printing press
A mechanical printing device invented by Johannes Gutenberg around 1440. It used “movable type”, a technology invented in China based on the use of small, reusable, rearrangeable metal blocks, to print letters on a page.
A kind of long-form prose story-writing. Although some have traced early novels to mediaeval China, Japan and Muslim Spain, the modern novel emerged in Europe in the 18th Century thanks to the mass production of books.

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