I found myself, on an ‘empty bucket’ day, with the first real chill of the season blowing against me, losing myself. I was on the bus stop and sad for no tangible reason. Then, something happened. My head nodded rhythmically. I tapped my foot in the same time. It was comforting. It was familiar. It was music.
When I consider music, an artform so pervasive in my world, as an advocacy tool, I cannot help but conjure images of a motley crew of young folk who have been paraded in front of a crowd and are desperately in search of something that remotely resembles harmony. Such an image almost always touches my heart. It is, indeed, a beautiful thing to witness. But what of the heart-rending lyrics of Soul music? What of the deeply percussive reverberation of House; the aggression of Jazz; the inevitable uplift offered by Gospel; the audacity of HipHop, Rock and Metal? Where do those independent artists, who, for pennies, bleed their truth on any available stage, fit into this paradigm of advocacy and justice?
Peter Bruun, in his September 13th post, said this in an attempt to define “art”: “I believe the notion of art is itself a construct; a cultural invention to imply certain shared understandings on value, meaning, and status…”. Assuming this construct (art) is indeed about the assignation of value, and there is value in music as a form of entertainment (as evidence by the gross amount of money moving through the mainstream industry), why, then, am I not, often enough, engaged in discourse regarding the spiritually restorative value of music?
I wonder what happens if we choose to see those things, like popular music, as accessible avenues in our pursuit of justice. If an aggressive song puts me in an aggressive mood, and likewise, a love song is evocative of love, shouldn’t I leverage that state of being?
While we are not necessarily creating out of a sense of social consciousness, it still strikes me as appropriate that we might leverage said creations, nonetheless.
You read something which you thought only happened to you, and you discover that it happened 100 years ago to Dostoyevsky. This is a very great liberation for the suffering, struggling person, who always thinks that he is alone. This is why art is important. Art would not be important if life were not important, and life is important.~James Baldwin, Conversations with James Baldwin
I submit that life is justice, and the pursuit thereof. The correlation of life and art can be made in any number of trite, uninspired ways. I imagine that my movement toward my own artistic self was, directly, a byproduct of life–living. I would always find myself experiencing a special sort of alone. Suffering through a oppressively mundane existence; struggling to announce a me that is indeed alive and present. Beyond the platitudes of elders and encouragement of contemporaries there was a void left. The irony seems always to be that one is, too often, unaware of the missing piece.
I’ve only adopted the “artist” moniker to offer society the opportunity to frame what it is that I do to survive. And, I was so inclined only because I read something that I thought only happened to me, and discovered it happened 61 years ago, to someone else.
Where does art and justice intersect? In a full-on, speed limit be damned, unapologetic, unashamedly reckless attempt at experiencing the most rewarding life possible. This approach is predicated on the notion that one’s success, happiness, validation, affirmation and joy are all, at once, utterly dependent on those things being equitably experienced by his/her community. Without regard to religious leanings, certain truths remain:”For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” So what of the fullness of life, if it is experienced in a vacuum?
I am alive. I am living. I am art. I am justice.
Devlon E Waddell