“art is a condition of human existence, it’s function is to build community.” mat callahan in the trouble with music
i read the trouble with music a couple of months ago, part of the new offerings that came in the mail as part of my “friend of akpress” subscription. an exploration of artistic endeavour under capitalism, and the ways in which pop music is a killer to harmonic expression of an essential nature – the book reminded me a lot of a critical analysis course i took on pop music during my communications degree – enjoyable and often obvious.
when i came across the above quote in the book, i had a bit of an “ah-ha” moment with it, particularly given that so many individuals pursue artistic expression without overt benefit, and in my own work community-building has always been an explicit motivator. it’s really just that this statement sums up so nicely the drive to produce and perform despite the very real personal, physical and (sometimes) financial costs that accrue in the process. while individuals may be apparently motivated by ego, the desire for fortune or some other – every actor, musician, or visual artist is glad for the crowd who attends, is interested in their interactions and how the work performed affects them, is motivated to produce further to gain new audiences and bring them together with old ones.
it is this audience/community-building function that makes art indispensible to the continuation of social human existence. is this true? are we capable of existing without art, music, poetry, thought, dance, and all other creative expressions? and if we are capable of existing without them, what type of communities would we be living in? this is hard to imagine given our upbringing in a world rife with abstract representations of thought played out across every billboard, television screen, movie marquee, and compact disc.
in the dystopic projections of doomsday novelists, books and popular songs are written by computer, humming an unsanctioned melody is frowned upon, the gathering of live musicians is banned outright, and the scripted mechanics of television life are blared into homes daily. the unscripted, the artistic, the liberated human voice – are banned – dangerous to authority. of course there are real-world examples of this as well – artists often being a target by political mafioso during times of social upheaval – art comandeered in the service of revolution.
today, the popular is quite noticeably in the service of corporate capitalism, churning out endless carbon copies of the same, the same, the same – the same love song, the same hair style, the same choreography, the same bad attitude. all of that blandness designed not to rattle cages, and to sell the most products to the widest consumer base possible. this can only be a function of human existence marching its way to collapse, a grey mass of atomized units listening to their preprogrammed ipods as they lockstep into history….
how long until we start to take it back?