Monday, February 28, 2011

Western Freedom & How We All Want An Audience

I’ve been watching Exit Through the Gift Shop on Netflix with Susanna. She just fell asleep, so I’ve turned here to offer an update. I caught a bit of the Oscar bug last night just clicking around and seeing what was being covered via live streaming. I wanted to watch the main event itself so much that I started wondering if I should actually hook up the TV’s antenna. Hmmm? I just discovered all the hype about this Banksy character. Seems like someone I probably should have known about already. I have to admit there is something compelling about this new wave of street art. I’m no anarchist, but the film appeals to that part of me that wants to be naughty, rogue, outlaw, underground, sneaky, hidden—whatever you want to call it. I think all of us have wanted to have this kind of freedom, to be lawless and yet somehow still a really good person. It ends up being a kind of morality wrought out of our own created sense of self. The film is an interesting case study of what we believe it means to be free in Western Civilization today. Makes me think of that line from Richard Rorty—something about how we are no longer pioneers and explorers but artists and poets. The part of his argument that burned a hole in me when I heard it discussed in college some 15 years ago was about how ‘truth’ is an adjective not a noun.  Pragmatism. Our therapeutic culture that defers so politely and yet so viciously to our respective perspectives. Every one is entitled to an opinion. Such pluralism helped me out once when the homosexual, wicca witch who waited tables with me responded to my views on chastity by saying, “Well, it is just his culture. He doesn’t know any better.” Hope College students should be familiar with these ideas because of Trygve’s regular references to Christian Smith’s writing that defines today’s youth culture by its “therapeutic, moralistic deism.”

Oh, and there is some really good art in the film too. I like the film so far if only to see some of the creative process of these artists.

Speaking of creative processes, today I finally took the risk and sent some of the Ordinary Neighbors tracks out to be heard. Just two songs but still, it was a big step for me. John Erskine has been a great help with the mastering. I haven’t wanted to pay for mastering piece meal since I don’t know what this project will become. But I’ve also been anxious to hear some of it with some of these final touches.

We ended up bouncing the final stereo pair to my trusty old Otari 5050 ½ inch 8 track. The songs started on analog tape to begin with and now they have a much better sonic center after going back to tape. I was really excited about how they were sounding in the studio. But then when I got them home I began to fret and pick them apart. Susanna and John think I’m being obsessive and of course I am. I’ve told so many other artists, we have to let die the fantasy art that is floating around in our heads and pay attention to the art that is actually happening in front of us. And this is surely how I’ve gotten this far with these songs, but it is so hard to pry my white knuckled hands off the songs and let them live. I swore after my second solo record that I would to learn how to make a record that I could actually enjoy personally. That was 2001. Ten years and I don’t think I’ve accomplished this yet. I’m not sure I’ll really enjoy listening to the songs once they are assembled on a CD. But it has been a crazy fun journey. I like fiddling around in recording studios. The experience is literally a certain amount of losing your mind that is somehow enjoyable.

Yet creative process aside I believe that any artist is not being completely honest who says she is making the art only for herself—that she doesn’t care about an audience. She may or may not be telling a lie outright. Perhaps she just doesn’t yet know how to accept that tender part of herself. Every human being wants an audience. The question is how big does the audience have to be? When is enough enough?

This weekend John Erskine was my audience as he worked to master the tracks, and it was satisfying, a good shot in the arm. He’s heard a lot of music in his life. He’s made a lot of music. And for a few days he cared for my music. And that was nice.

*I wish I could find a bigger picture of my tape machine. This is my avatar for the two pro audio forms that I visit regularly, and


OKC Herbivore said...

enjoyed this! and enjoyed what it might mean in terms of ON goodies.

Micah said...

dude, totally with you; after i watched Exit back in january, i totally wanted to go do some street art around lafayette. if i had time and a partner in crime, i may have considered it seriously.

Sarah Kivell said...

Thanks...this was encouraging to hear.