Wednesday, January 04, 2006

expression of what?

I don’t propose to impose this on persons -though it has always been true of me – but I will say that I believe it is true of peoples. Our music is an expression of who we are. It is not an expression of who we think we are, or who we want to be, but for a people, it is at least a partial definition of us.
Because I feel this way, I have a strong response when I see or hear someone satirizing or mocking a style of music. In my mind, styles are associated with cultures, and cultures with people, who end up being the brunt of joke. This happens all the time with regional styles of music that due to the homogenization of American culture, are viewed as humorous, cute, novelty music. This is true of mountain music, bluegrass, polka, klezmer, etc. Music becomes the symbol that is used to mock the people from whom it came. You don’t have to directly make fun of someone, you can just laugh and make light of their music.

This feeling has caused me to react to certain things in very specific ways over the years. One of my earliest feelings toward others’ response to my music was the feeling of rejection when someone responded unfavorably. There are levels of rejection depending on the type of unfavorable response. If someone merely expresses disinterest in your music, it will hurt your feelings if you feel that your music is a representation of you. They may equate your music with your shirt, and think that an opinionated evaluation of it is nothing more than saying that they don’t like your shirt. Interestingly enough, folks are MUCH less likely to actually express the fact that they don’t like your shirt – that would be rude – but think nothing of letting you know without doubt that they don’t like your music.
A higher level of rejection comes when someone doesn’t express a simple dislike, but makes a value judgement. It goes beyond, “I don’t like your music”, to, “your music is not good.” And this even less hurtful than when that expression actually goes beyond the quality of the music and “bad”, is representative of a moral judgement. Evil. “Your music is evil.”
If your opinion of my music is one of disinterest, I am made to feel that you are disinterested in me. If your opinion is that my music is not good music, I am made to feel that you think I am not a good person. If you think my music is morally bankrupt or evil, I am made to feel that you think I am morally bankrupt or evil.
This may sound selfish, whiny, ridiculous to you depending on what your music means to you, but I am not whining, because even way back then, I learned that my value in any of these areas was not determined by folks around me. So I never felt the need to determine whether my music was “good” or “bad”, but simply to make music that expressed me.

I think that this at some point, way back, was all that music was. It was an expression of our selves. But at some point, music became product and thus became a product that could be needed or not needed, useful or not useful, accepted or rejected, loved or ignored.
It changed ownership from the creator of the music, to the consumer of the music. It was no longer created as a child of the musician, but as a product to be made available to someone else, so that it no longer represented anything of the creator, but only what he thought the consumer would be interested in.
Art no longer is able to observe and comment on who a people are, but reflects back to themselves who they wish they were. It is no longer an accurate portrayal of culture, but another expression of the cultural mask that hides our identity.