Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Why We Need other artists (repost)


Why We Need Other Artists

Current mood:artistic
It's almost pathetic how obtuse I can be sometimes. I was feeling a bit low this evening, even though the Canucks won their hockey game vs. the Thrashers, and we had a brilliant practice this afternoon. For external reasons, both Isabelle and I have been feeling a tiny bit drained of late and I was poking around on myspace (not necessarily the greatest form of self help) and came across a page with an absolutely beautiful song playing. It was almost a gospel song, or certainly came from that genre. It soothed my head a bit and I listened to it in it's entirety. As I was relaxing to the woman's voice (I couldn't find her name as it was a song on a record label's page and they weren't too clear with their credits) it occurred to me that I need to expand my horizons fairly frequently. In the past, well certainly over the last eighteen months, while we were writing and recording the songs for The World Over, I was very content to go downstairs and spend ten hours at a time messing around on ideas, tracking vocals, editing, mixing whatever. If I felt a mood come on I tried to capture it in song. Or, if inspiration struck, I hurried to turn on the mac and get the mics up and recording as soon as possible. It's a great process but eventually you run out of legitimate ideas.

So tonight it dawned on me that I do need to listen to other artists, look for new music, find new or at least different ideas to play with. Hearing music you've not written and finding it intriguing is a rush. You can only hear a song for the first time that one time (yah I know, how obvious) but if it can compell you to smile, or cry, or dance, or laugh, or sit up in shock at something fresh and new, it is a gift. Those quick seconds, where a composer manages to turn a chord progression away from the expected and find a new resolution or pattern, or when a melody leaps away from where you thought it would go, or a lyric doesn't go for the typical rhyme and instead offers you an insight into the artist's meaning; those are the reasons we listen to music. And more importantly, someone else might have written a song that I just couldn't possibly compose for myself, and it suites my needs perfectly at that moment.

I had a great night the other evening, when by chance I happened upon a good friend in a bar, and he introduced me to his novelist buddy. The three of us spoke (ok, honestly it was mostly me doing the gabbing, but I did let them interject every 10 minutes or so) on many subjects for an intense hour. I laughed when I realized that the three of us were all artists, leaning up at the bar, and chatting merrily away about art. How bizarre. How obvious. A painter, a writer, and a musician, all completely at ease, talking with passion and exchanging ideas. It made me smile at how cool life can be, and how, if you let it, life can lead you to the right places. After our conversation I joined Isabelle who was talking away in the corner with a designer friend of hers. This place was crawling in artists! No wonder I like going there. It might just be that Vancouver is starting to refind its soul and making room for more than dodgy condos and people obsessed with real estate and excessive mortgage payments.

After many years of making a living from music it was almost ironic that only last year I awoke one morning and realized I was a musician. Most poeple clue in after the first ten years, but I'm a slow learner. After making that concession, I made the next leap and realized that music was in fact art. In North America we have a harsh view of music and musicians. The musician is often frowned upon as a slacker, his music dismissed or callously utilized to aid the sale of automobiles or telephones. If there is no direct and measurable monetary value to someones music, then it can't be that good, right? Or the extreme inverse is true: if you are fortunate enough to sell millions of copies of your music you are branded a sellout. Is U2 really a sellout because they sell millions of cds? Really? Don't you think With Or Without You is a brilliant, classic song, up there with Let it Be or Hey Jude? Are they sellouts because many people love their art? God I hope not. Certainly I could site a pile of examples of shit that plainly isn't art, but that's because it's created with another methodology. If you write songs with the anticipation that it should be a certain length to be played on radio, or a chorus should appear after just so many seconds, or the middle eight MUST follow the second chorus, and you adhere to those principles as rules, you aren't really allowing for the art to pass through you. Absolutely there have been good songs written to follow the formula, but will they stand the test of time?

Which leads me to my latest discovery that I finally have a clue what art might be or mean: a reflection of the world around us. Our culture requires art, because through it we retain knowledge. If we only cared about the bottom line, i.e. survival, we would still be living in caves or running around the plains with our spears and stalking fleet footed animals. The free time we have between our need to survive is when art is created. Sure, you need food and shelter to live, no one would dispute that, but if we never had any artists we would never have created society. The tales were told, the pictures drawn, the songs were sung, the buildings built, and the stories of our forefathers carried forward to the next generation. Perhaps those early days were a bit crude, but the intent was the same: to tell the story of a generation of human beings. Its a good feeling to think you might be a part of something so divine.

Still, don't get me wrong, I'm hopeful that Combine the Victorious will sell countless cds and downloads, tour the world and we'll have a brilliant time doing it. I'm just excited that I've found a higher meaning to my work for the first time in my life. It's a good feeling.

Thanks for reading, have a good night.

Mark    

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