Many things are happening in the world today, from the global pandemic, threats to freedom of speech, and racism. I’ve heard people say that in-spite of so-called “progress”they are afraid the younger generation is not in a better place at all. We are confronted with a multitude of social, community, family, and personal issues.
This has caused me to step back a bit and take stock of what’s been happening. With all these layers simultaneously happening, it is difficult to ignore them. In the creative space, lots of artists have been finding their own ways to express their opinions regarding the issues at hand and I continue to reflect and see how I can do the same.
Music is a way to penetrate the barriers of noise and return back to life. In music (as in art) there are always two layers at play – one is the craft, and the other, the message. The message is transmitted by the craft. Without the craft, one will not be able to deliver the message. The two are inexplicably intertwined.
The gravity of both concepts usually cause the individual to drift back and forth between focusing on the craft, and focusing on the message. I sometimes find myself being engrossed by details of the craft like compositional technique, scales, modes, equipment, audio engineering, arranging, effects, synthesizers, MIDI sequencers, (the list goes on and on). This is an entire universe to be immersed in and it is an exciting part of art.
But I also now know that this is just the first layer. To transcend to the next layer is to be immersed in the message, to the “truth” that it represents. Jean-Michel Basquiat said, “I don’t think about art when I’m working. I try to think about life.” Art is a representation of life, though not always literal, it does capture the awareness and frame of mind by which the creator grasps a certain aspect of life.
The tapestry of life is captured in a multitude of ways: There are songs about love, hate, anger, pain, fear, hope, lack of hope.. songs about government, anti-government, ideologies, philosophy, science, and numerous countless subjects – all having their own merit and bearing.
Aside from this, Music seems to be a very effective way to interact with the consciousness of other human beings as it can be the gateway for deeper pursuit of things in the process of growth. In other words, music may not literally change or transform the world, but it may affect a human being’s thoughts, which will affect their actions, which will ultimately affect their destiny and course of life.
I find that the most uplifting music comes from the direct application of “taking from the deep well of life”. There was an experience to be had and from that the music was born. What’s inspiring is that every moment is an experience and it is ever evolving. The exterior and interior life is full of moments and experiences that can be the seed of art and music. You can take this even further and tap the collective consciousness of human civilization and take the lessons and truths extracted from literature, spirituality, history, myths, archetypes, legends and etc. – These are all endless sources of life which in turn are endless sources of art.
Everything that is happening in the world today, from the global pandemic to chaos and racism, to threats to human rights in one’s own country, is pushing me to focus even more on the message. Basquiat’s innate instinct to think about life when working on his art is such a simple, yet powerful principle in the act of creating. The Philippines’ national hero, Jose Rizal, wrote two books which became the seed of the revolution which eventually led to independence. Art is capable of articulating not just direct beauty and truth, but also resistance, change and a call to transformation.
This is not to say that the craft side is useless, in fact it is essential. The more you practice and learn about the language of music and art the more clearly you will be able to articulate your message. With command of the language, what is it that you want to say? What would you like to express?
May these realizations help me, and help anyone who reads this post, in their journey in art and creativity. My hope is that we all find our own unique way of using the tapestry of life as the raw material in art. Dig deep and extract the truth inside!
Here’s a meditative piece to aid us in these trying times: