The Artist's Job in Society/Resisting The Information Overlord
The artist's role in the world is never as clear as that of a builder or a plumber. We are always straddling the line between the real and the ideal, commixing the two into a dense fabric in which one thread can begin and end on opposite ends of that spectrum. Ultimately we deal with the science and craft of patterns.
We are charged with a dual purpose: to preserve the patterns that we sense in the world around us, and also to introduce new patterns of our own into the world. When we preserve characteristics of the world that are negative and destructive, we must take care to show them in ways that indicate their negative qualities and try to explain them. Our job is not to hide the ugliness of life, but to help people understand the patterns in chaos, and help them find a way out. When we create on the other hand, we have the responsibility to show people patterns which help them live their lives better.
On the other hand we do not need to just feed people a constant stream of illusory positivity.
The job of the progressive musician is to present with as much insight as possible a portrayal of the real and imaginary worlds which lead to a profound discovery of the consumer.
In today's society, an informed person can't help but see that there is so much going on in the world, both good and bad. We have reached a point in society where a seemingly unlimited stream of information is constantly flowing through us at an unprecedented rate. At the same time, the pace of political and social developments have accelerated to an equally rapid tempo, with no signs of slowing. Humanity's learning curve is quickly approaching an asymptote at which, to paraphrase Terence Mckenna, the phenomenon of newness will take over the human experience and become its overwhelming driving force. We can see that in the music industry by looking at the evolution of music throughout history: once a communal event primarily performed by live musicians and stretched on for hours, music as it has simultaneously become more accessible has shrunk from the concert/ceremony, to the album, to the single, a mere two to four minutes in length. Artists, we who have trained our attention to focus in on a work of art for hours with laserlike precision, often fail to understand the change in the human attention span. But I am not advocating for musicians and artists to go along with that.
As the volume of information increases, the shallowness increases to the point where very few people have a depth of understanding of the things they talk about. Usually the depth of engagement in the social media realm is to the point of sharing content created by another, automatically, with no commentary. Artists, with our gift of enhanced creativity, also have the obligation to create content that helps others expand their own creativity rather than exploit their weaknesses. It's our responsibility to help people reach a greater understanding of the way the world works. Too often I hear music that plays to the lowest common denominator, taking a well-worn path to a familiar place. Is there anything wrong with taking part in the simple pleasures that drive human happiness? Of course not. But there are duties that go along with the freedom of being an artist.
As people of understanding in a profoundly sick society, we have to be healers. And healing does not always just mean covering up the wound. Sometimes we have to go in there and rearrange emotional bones that have splintered and realign our minds. Therefore we also have to challenge ourselves to understand the world on a deep level as well, because to understand is to love and respect.