The general impression of singer/songwriters is that of the tortured soul whose mind is their saving grace and enemy; it gives him/her the words and processes to capture moments and people, turn them into stories and melodies, yet traps them in that chamber of analysis, dissecting every facet of every interaction in an unyielding search for the right words at the right time.
There’s a sense of romance, aloofness, vulnerability and candour that acts as the universal draw. Honesty is revered and feared by those who seek the words or songs that make everything seem palpable, that take you to familiar places with different eyes, that make you feel that you are part of a great internal human struggle and what you feel can be beautiful despite the irrational pain or futility of most situations. Joy can be shared as beautifully as pain, presented in the right way by someone who truly has the courage to say “I feel this and we’re not alone”.
More people than ever have a voice now. You only have to type singer/songwriter into a search engine to see how saturated it all is. So many people trying to set their lives to poetry and melody, who believe their voice is worthy of being heard whether there is a message or not.
I spend an obsessive amount of time finding music, learning about artists and their journey to “success”. I try to chart their ascent and liken it to my own tentative ball of plasma, try to draw inspiration from the longer journeys and optimism from the lucky few whose ascent was relatively quick.
I do this because I know that one day I’ll have to come around to the idea that I am a product to be packaged and presented to the baying crowd. Right now I am the hermit who sits in her cave surrounded by words and ideas, who really doesn’t feel too enamoured with the idea of stepping out of the cave and into the bright lights. I know that more than ever people are commodities, my only issue – a fairly paradoxical issue – is that once you put a price on something it become devalued. The essence of it has been weighed and your worth is now measure in pennies and pounds, in body count. In my lovely cave I know the worth of words and people, out there I feel and see mass atrophy coupled with the overriding opinion that music and art are glorified hobbies not the noble pursuit of mutual truth, peace and redemption.
I’m under no illusions about the music industry and its succubus tendencies. I guess the point I’m trying to make, which isn’t really a point more of a rhetorical question is: does it have to be like this? Why do seemingly sapient beings have to disparage art or attempt to make it more palatable? Yes, the majority of the Fresians who buy chart music generally like being subliminally told what to like and for how long. Yet, as the value of people lessens, the quality of human output does also. Everything has become so vapid and cheap, everyone can become a product – beneficial, unique or otherwise. What once was sacred is fodder.
I’m not arguing against “bad music” or music that doesn’t hold a great message, there is a place for everyone and I like the majority of people find a lot of pleasure in fairly unchallenging music. My gripe is with the flogging of once a great beast. Sure, make synthetic, pain-free music, everyone needs to retreat for a few minutes to a land where their basest and most frivolous pleasures are catered for and without the bad the great wouldn’t shine through as much. However, don’t push out the real messages to the sound of a pulsating beat and unnatural voice. Their has to be an equal balance in order for people to fully appreciate the big picture. Perhaps, music should be viewed as an eco-system that thrives through a balanced representation of all creatures.
Back to the hermits tale; I’ve popped my head out several times, ventured into the valley to fraternise with similar souls and sounds. In this time I’ve met only a handful of people who really value artistic endeavour and will champion true, immeasurable artistry. I will continue to fill my cave with ideas, music and light and draw inspiration from fellow hermits as I join them in the snake pit of the music industry. Hunter S. Thompson put it wonderfully;
“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”