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Tha Year In Turgid Moral/Aesthetic Confession

A couple of nights ago I had something of a revelation while talking to Todd B. about notes I had been making for a girl group article on Stylus (watch out J. C-L, I haven't forgotten) about the way I weave morality into the music I hear. I've loved music as something of a savior since I was a kid; I've always seen it as something of a potential source of salvation or transendence. It sounds grand, but it's sort of true. Why else, I wondered, would I so passionately prop up things I thought were just and good in the world: the cosmically kinky, the cryptically romantic with a touch of hard-assed melancholia, and the rawly earnest/earnestly raw? It's not everything, but it's about 85% of me.

I want to palm the nut without art or nuance; I want to crack the nut without remorse. I watch Scarface and like it fine, but why did it take me so long to realize that enjoying We Got it 4 Cheap is basically the same thing? Am I dense? Do I really have that much faith in music? Why does music polarize me on moral grounds before I can always let the art of it seep in?

It might be that I secretly really love people, and music's got inherent community down like no other medium. Take mixtapes; while I've had friends that copy out poems for other people, it's got nothing on the feeling you get throwing a friend's comp. in the stereo and having it blow you away and you being able to feverishly call the person, tenuously gripping the phone and muttering "YES," riding the warm highs of discovery. When a great song comes on in the car, at the club, in the living room, everyone drools "YES" in unison. People don't high-five when they finally get to see Nude Descending a Staircase; while art and cinema transpose themselves into the idea of "community" in interesting ways, I still think that music is as readily a collective experience as they come.

Now what I'm getting around to is that it's hard for me to imagine two friends bonding over Clipse (or whomever); I still can't play the stuff in the car for my girlfriend, who still winces a little at the occasional jets of misogyny or homophobia that pollute even the most incisive, intelligent hip-hop. Maybe it's that when I hear something as music, it doesn't have the safe distance that the printed page or celluloid or most of visual art's "object" status and therefore I feel as if it's actually so deep within me that I shake with dissonance when I feel something that isn't right to me, morally speaking.

Still, I'm coming around to it all, I'm dropping some of my moral pretenses in order to try to see what other people see in things I would otherwise find immediately conflicting. Really though, I'm not sure if that's something I want, or dare I say I should do; I mean, is it misguided to think that music could have some kind of moral redemption in it? When politics betray the polis, when love feels backhanded, when the world feels so damn cold sometimes, is it naive of me to think that this thing we do - this music thing - shouldn't mirror the depravity so much of the world as to try to counteract it or at least provide us with some relief? Savagery doesn't seem voluntary (show my hand, it's full of Hobbes & Beckett), but art is, and that's why I'm gagging on the issue.

Sometimes I'm dazzled by my utter humorlessness.


Blogger Brad said...

I thought you were funny, for what it's worth. And no one else could have written the Three 6 Mafia blurb. Especially that last line - !

I think most artists harbor this belief that their work can act as a moral force (whatever that morality may be), but musicians have to talk about it less becasue - as you said - it's the most immediate of all the arts. Excepting, of course, slapstick. The community of listening to songs often makes the specific "message" of a song irrelevant; I think the under-economy of cocaine is supreme American ignorance, but I fear the man who doesn't shake it to Ghostface. Movies are too literal for that approach; we see the people before us, we have to grapple with their actions. That sort of thing.

All to say, we both had Three 6 at number 1. lolgayamirite

8:13 AM  

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