Music and Art

A recent thread on a guitar message board equated cover band musicians with “technicians” and those that composed their own material as “artists.” This dichotomy is entirely flawed. Whether one performs the work of another or writes one’s own material, either way, you are a musician. Being a musician in no way guarantees, however, that you are an “artist” -- in fact, in our world, there’s almost no chance you are both a musician and an real artist. To believe that one is creating “art” while one chugs away on a guitar, stringing together chords and notes, and calling it “art” is like calling “Lady Ga Ga” an “artist” instead of corporate commodity.

As I have said in an earlier article, art is inherently transgressive and boundary shattering -- it is simultaneously world-destroying and world-creating. Art is ‘negative’ in that it strips away particularity and delves into universality, or, conversely, suspends the universal in favor of wallowing in the contingency of the existent -- oscillations from one polarity to another. The result of ‘successful’ art, assuming it is not just incompetent musicianship hiding behind the rubric of ‘art’, is the confrontation and clash of reality and counter-reality. Art should produce a profound ‘negative’ physiological and psychological reaction on the part of the ‘viewer’ or ‘listener.’ Even boredom can fit here. There's got to be something 'wrong' with it in order to be 'right.' If it falls short of this then it is just an aesthetic hobby or musical product -- or just annoying.

Under this criteria there would be more art in throwing an electric guitar down a flight of stairs than all the notes and chords churned out by 99% of the guitarists waxing philosophically on their message boards. On the bright side, there’s nothing wrong with being a musician and making music -- but let’s not insult the art concept, let's just throw your guitar down a flight of stairs.