In a lecture delivered in 1992 at Sadler’s Wells Theater in London, musical innovator Brian Eno cleverly assessed the role of the creative individual within a post-modern society: he eloquently foretold the growing importance of the curator in many mediums (from media spin doctors to DJ’s, from art curators to film editors), and hinted at a culture which no longer clings to a fundamentalist view of quality in the arts, but instead opens up to more individualistic interpretations. When I consider the present state of music, these thoughts seem especially on target; and I marvel at how, for all its apparent diversity, much of the music released today still clings to traditionalism. I sometimes wonder to myself, “what are these musicians afraid of?”
It can be challenging at times for “outside-the-box” thinkers to have their voices heard within the traditional arts, but it appears we have a better opportunity now than ever before: since the mass-media arts have essentially absorbed all of the traditional mediums, the challenge no longer lies in the lack of creative resources for bringing unorthodox ideas to life*, but rather in preserving one’s singularity of vision in a world that becomes decreasingly diversified every day. It’s kind of funny, when you think of it: the more opportunities we’ve created for individuals to voice their singular identities, the more everything (and everyone) seems to sound, look, and act alike.
This is where, it would seem to me, the curator has a prime opportunity to break this crippling trend of homogenization: DJ’s can choose to assemble sets of more obscure recordings, and if presented in just the right manner, they can still achieve popular appeal—without having to bow to popular preferences. Composers who use sampling as a production tool do not have to go for the obvious hooks and beats, but can instead reveal entirely unique perspectives through the decoupage of unexpected materials. Since we are no longer slaves to traditional interpretations of what art means and how one should go about creating it, it seems far more natural to embrace this inherent diversity, rather than cling to a nostalgia for how things sounded in the past.
This isn’t to say artists should prohibit themselves from the influence of their favourite recordings, singers, or compositional styles; but neither should they become slaves to these influences. A balance must be struck between delving into the unknown, and maintaining some kind of harmonious relationship with one’s roots. In this regard, the act of post-modern creation is not so far-removed from modernism. However, in post-modernism, it is commonly accepted that all which can possibly be said has already been said before. Individual works are therefore delineated by the ways in which these existing phrases are combined—the how, as opposed to the what of creative content. If we continue reevaluating musical history and reassembling it from different angles, it will become much easier for us to find imaginative approaches towards building a more heterogeneous musical future.
*Just think: writings, recordings—even entire films can be created with something as small and accessible as a smartphone.
Dirty/Clean is a synth rock duo located in Dayton, OH. Their forthcoming debut LP, ‘Welt Am Draht’, drew inspiration from cold wave records of the late 70’s/early 80’s (Gary Numan, PiL, the Bowie/Eno/Iggy Berlin albums), along with a 1973 sci-fi film of the same title.Purchase an LP or download here, and buy concert tickets/like the band on Facebook here.
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