November was a busy month for me with various annual benefit concerts and it got my head spinning on why exactly our local music scene has become such a hotbed of fundraisers for various causes. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about:
It’s sometimes useful for the sake of thinking through things to create a dichotomy based on two ways of approaching music; as entertainment and as art. In communities where there is focus on the artistic identity of music, a certain sense of community is easy to find. The meaning and motivation of the art and intent of the artist rises the surface and unlike an entertainment focused view of the musician, this art-focused viewpoint invites the listener to become emotionally invested in the message of the art. When many people become emotionally invested or feel represented, it is this mutual feeling that starts to draw connections and form a community of fans around an artist. This community is comprised of folks who have this thing in common and can find some sense of empathy for each other.
As the motivation or message of the artist becomes social or political in nature, it shifts the community from introspective to outward-facing. Combine an emotional investment in the artist with a social statement to get behind and be energized about. Here you’ve got the primordial soup of music-centered social activism.
For example: One punk is pissed off about abuse of power in their gov’t. That punk starts a band and writes some songs about being pissed off. Others enjoy the music, and come to realize that they also care quite a bit about the imbalance of power. They just happen to be in the midst of a convenient group of people who all feel strongly about this thing and they find power in numbers and validation of their feelings which drives the whole group to be motivated about taking action.
Now the dichotomy of art vs entertainment is not fair and never pure, in fact the entertainment quality of music helps to create an emotional experience from a performance which aids in the process of drawing personal investment to an artist’s message. Community driven by artistic vision coupled with positive experiences given by high quality entertainment is an ideal combination that can be used to very effectively leverage social and political action.
I’m hoping to explore in the future what the active expression of the community to affect these issues looks like. I’ll be spending a lot of time considering the pitfalls of creating an echo chamber and choosing actions that make real change to the causes that we care about. Thanks for visiting my mind.