Friday, June 3, 2011

Playing to an empty room

I am a man of rather extreme pretension. I style myself a writer, aim to be a musician, a renaissance artist, and a dashing rogue (with rapist wit). A restless soul. And the wanderlust. Not to mention the occasionally pathological drive to know more and more in a rather desperate archeology of (low) culture.

In times of desperation or introspection, I find myself questioning the validity of these stylizations. I am a man. Husband, father. Son, brother. I am a student. These are the facts that can be legally conferred upon me. That and the unpleasant student loan debt. The others are, naturally, considerably more relative.

I can call myself a writer as I do write, have been paid to do so. And yet. There is the sense (often illegitimate) that a writer must make a living off writing, must be on a trajectory towards Stephen King success, must be known and popular, &c &c.

Much the same for music. Not only must on be proficient on the instrument but there must be a record, the record must be disseminated.

It would seem, at least to me, that these titles - writer, musician, artist, et al - must be externally applied. That they are titles others give you, labels they put on your great work, your passion, your pastime, whatever it is we do when we do it. That it isn't true unless it is externally verified. You aren't an artist until someone else agrees. Jack Black claims that "one great rock show can change the world." But what if you only ever play one show? Or is the exhibitionism inherent in the label. People who play music for their friends and family alone wouldn't call themselves musicians?

I hate to think that commercialism is what defines the artist. Not that I dispute the holism of the Culture Industry. Cultural production is a Being-toward the Industry even when it is not a planned participant in the gated community. Yet, it is the commercial viability of the of the work (whether mainstream audience or niche Internet subculture) that allows the artist to be defined, to be disseminated. Or is there something to just putting it out there: writing on a blog that no one reads, posting videos that no one watches, playing music for an empty room.

Until that day...
... "I'll see you all in the coming fall in the Big Rock Candy Mountains."

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