Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Music Serves No Master

In a recent post, I talked about a rather obvious but for some reason, little-known theme in western art and music, which is; everyone has a connection to a higher source of inspiration. 
On the other side of the coin, as it were, we have the views of people like Plato, who I have compared to Hitler in other posts, since he was for the control of artistic expression to serve the good of the state.
Now, all arguments about the definition of God aside, what’s the point of having inspiration if it doesn’t go beyond ordinary thinking? So we’re saying this Source or Inspiration is something that can’t be reached too well with normal thinking. Here we also get into the idea that normal thought processes can be conditioned and influenced by outside sources. And isn’t this what folks like Plato and Hitler are seeking to do anyway? Control and monitor the thoughts of the group.
It is in these circumstances that music or artistic expression in its purest form can be powerful in undoing this kind of conditioning. Interesting that in this ‘Age of Reason,’ you don’t hear about inspiration much. But I submit that reason is a good mistress but a bad master and music serves no master.
One frequently runs into folks with the idea that music should serve some political end, be they well meaning or not, but this only serves to drag the creative process down closer to Earth, as it were. It grounds the creative process until it is in danger of functioning like a Rube Goldberg machine.

Except that, unlike Rube Goldberg machines that eventually did something, reason that is aberrated by conditioning or bypasses installed by society, circulates around and around in a pretzel logic fashion, arriving at the same foregone conclusions every time.  

Monday, September 21, 2015

Plato's Views On Music

People have long been aware, it seems, of the power of music. Long ago we have philosophers such as Plato, expounding, in his work about his new utopian republic, on what modes or scales were suitable and which should be banned. He makes this rather fascinating statement about music in general;
   "The introduction of novel fashions in music is a thing to beware of as endangering the whole fabric of society, whose most important conventions are unsettled by any revolutions in that quarter."                       
                                                --Plato, The Republic     (c.428 B.C.-c.347 B.C.)
It brings to mind Nazi Germany where the state controlled the art and it was all about the Arian Race. Also brings to mind Russia, under Stalin, where the state ran the media and a bad review could get you sent to a concentration camp or executed.
Dmitri Shostakovich was reputed to have slept downstairs with his bags packed so that, when the secret police came to get him, he wouldn’t wake up his family.
Now all of these are societies that could have used a little unsettling of their most important conventions and I think that Plato, unwittingly, hit the nail on the head as far as the definitions of what art and music are.
I daresay there has not been a society whose most important conventions did not need a little unsettling. Music and art are communication and they are nothing if they don’t cause people to come out of their conditioning and take a look at what is going on. When we used to study the blues, in school, they said it was a musical form innovated by the black slaves and was used to spread news. What news, we wondered? It was the news about the reality of their situation.

The status quo, in time, becomes an enslaving trap. Music should challenge the status quo. Music and art that doesn’t do this is, as Paul Simon says, ‘the sound of silence.' And thanks to Plato for defining what music and art should be.