Sunday, March 21, 2010

Saying Something

There is no permanent balance to life, no place that you can stand, emotionally or physically, forever. There have been a few times when I've felt like I was nearly grasping at what the world is all about, but then I travel, I read, I talk to people and suddenly I'm back in some wilderness where nothing quite makes sense again. What I've learned is that if you ever feel like you get it, like there is nothing left for you to understand, then you are in for a humbling wake-up. How fortunate we are, though, to have books and songs and art and film to help us as we find direction.

I just worry sometimes that we're too distracted by our popular culture, especially when it's traveling with us in our pockets, constantly pulsating with the absolute latest, especially when those items bearing some sort of meaning are buried by the minutia of a celebrity-marketing or our now often weird-for-the-sake-of-weird mainstream, capitalizing on the idea that people don't want something meaningful, they want something pretty and dramatic or something they've never seen. I certainly am always looking for something new and novel and interesting, but I get concerned when I find myself trolling the internet, click by click, for something bright and shiny when our world is writhing in need.

I feel that it's the duty of entertainers, of anyone in front of any sort of crowd, to be saying something. It doesn't need to be political or revolutionary or complex or even inspiring. It can be abstract or open-ended. It need not be put into words or images. It just needs to be expressing something. We're so pent up in a culture where we are always so careful of what we show on the surface. We may feel that we need to strike out in anger or flood with tears, but we hold it in. We may feel so elated that we want to start singing and dancing right in the middle of a busy sidewalk, but we suppress a great deal of it. Music and art allow us to relate those underlying feelings to someone else's, to channel our rage or sadness or joy to something constructive without repercussion, to give ourselves an outlet, to put it all in a new perspective so we can better understand ourselves and those around us - or just have a good time.

There is nothing to be ashamed of in your music library - you are really safe within the arts and we are fortunate enough to have the (relative) freedom to express ourselves (I like to say that everyone's taste in music is right). Sure, there is a consequence of sorts to anything you say or do, and it's good to be aware of it, but it's important to explore our interests and try things on and see how they feel, to stand up for yourself and the things you believe in. If anyone tries to shame you, they are probably just ashamed of something in themselves.

I play shows with all sorts of musicians and I'll see high school garage bands genuinely expressing themselves, however cliche, at their sloppy first show, and I'll hear hip brooklyn bands, calculated and dressed exactly to the moment, buried within a frenzy of rehashed and diced up fad-culture, saying nothing. The whole apathetic feel-nothing, say-nothing, care-about-nothing trend (which I had expected to fade by now) is infuriating to me in a time when so much is at stake, when our country is divided and fighting wars, when our planet is running a fever, when the tide of suffering continues to rise with world's population. . . .

Why sing it, why scream it, if you aren't saying anything at all?