Art is Political

//Art is Political

Art is Political

First, what sort of political? I think it means more than this country. My musical mission should give way to peacefulness someday and I think the second step with experimental music will be to recognize my own political distress.

Okay, all art is probably political. Fair enough?

I have been thinking this week about the link between worldview and quest within avant-garde musical composers. In an interview with the iconic Terry Riley (in an interview found on the web) ending calmly but having spoken out during better part of the 1960s and 70s. Yet times change; ways of expression change, too. If I want to compose music, does all this matter?

Tanya Tagaq, pictured above, is a voice/sound artist (oft’ written about here) and uses “avant-garde screams” as a tool to address political distress and a perceived need for intervention.

(web photo) Francine Orr, the LA Times

By contrast, “Terry Riley, a native Californian, spent most of his life living in nature north of Sebastopol, has always expressed a deep-seated reverence for animal and plant life.”

Sound Art, “After being pressed, the 1000 copies were scattered on the floor of an art gallery and visitors were invited to step on them. When the LP is played, the dirt and scratches blend in with the recorded material. Such albums are usually released in very limited quantities and collected and preserved as works of art (DJ Christian Marclay’s Record Without Grooves, 1987).”

All art? Hit me once more please.

In my work I have a long way to go but have to start to see things through the lens or viewpoint of concepts and politics, rather than the mere manipulation of material. The experimental composer ought to be a crafts-person with perspectives. When a specific event is questioned it can almost feel like art “positions itself” over to towards journalism, yet concepts can be broad and universal rather than too specific and immediate. A new music acquaintance of mine and professor in Germany and has described concept-driven art in his own way:

“Conceptual genres evolve in all of the arts, and are the consequence of a logic of negation,” Professor and musicologist Harry Lehman calls this in German Negationslogik. “This (concepts, he means) has the ability to negate all existing beliefs about art and music.” “(There was) a removal of the distant, sacred aura surrounding art influencing every form of expression, especially during the 1960s and after,” from an essay appearing in AllMusic regarding experimentalism in art.

Since 1980, 4,000 or so indigenous women who have disappeared in Canada… This is not reported as important news in the media. Related topics that an artist could question might involve all crimes against women, racist remarks by leaders, or ignoring the needs of teens under stress. Greenland is melting… Japan kills whales then grotesquely lies calling it “research”. These and many more are somber questions that an artist could formulate their art around if it can fit into his or her quest. With me, I am drawn to somber issues. I don’t think as much about ecology but I do understand deep ecology and, as a hobby, concern myself with the Arctic. The banner photo here, from the web, is of Tanya Tagaq, someone who centers her musical concepts around fighting “environmental evildoers” she expresses it. Terry Riley, by contrast, aims his more peaceful worldview, grounding in nature.

All Art.

A more serious issue.

“Moscow tested bombs over the wastelands of Novaya Zemlya, a remote island surrounded by the Arctic Ocean, to isolate its effects from the Russian mainland and humanity.  All buildings within the test range, both wooden and brick, were destroyed, including the village of Severny located 55 kilometers (34 miles) from ground zero.  The thermal pulse would have caused third degree burns at a distance of 100 kilometers (62 miles) and was felt by an observer 270 kilometers (170 miles) from ground zero.  Windows and doors were broken at a distance from ground zero of 900 kilometers (560 miles), including in Finland and Sweden. Even though Tsar was not a ground-contact burst but airburst at an altitude of 4 kilometers (13,000 feet), it caused an earthquake-like seismic shockwave registering at 5.5 that circled the planet three times.” December, 2016 Dr. Vincent Pry in The Mystery of Russia’s Doomsday Bomb. Whether it is the environment, war zones, or domestic problems serious issues almost go by silently, yet art should be political.

Okay fine, all art is political.

pol·i·tic/päləˌtik adjectiv; of an action seeming sensible and judicious under the circumstances. “I think it’s politic to at least say something about it.”

Out of almost 3.5 million violent crimes committed against family members, 49 percent of these were crimes against spouses between 1998 and 2002.
(U.S. Department of Justice) One in four women (25 percent) have experienced domestic violence in her lifetime. (The National Institute of Justice, Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence.)

It’s haunting to realize that half of the languages of the world are teetering on the brink of extinction” (Wade Davis, Scientist).

“Ethical Veganism results in a profound revolution within the individual; a complete rejection of the paradigm of oppression and violence that she has been taught from childhood to accept as the natural order… ethical veganism is anything but passive, on the contrary, it is the active refusal to cooperate with injustice”
(from Gary L. Francione author, activist).

All art is political, otherwise it would just be decoration.

The Doomsday Global Seed Vault…

“Humanity is not without answers or solutions regarding how to liberate itself from scenarios that invariably end with mass exterminations. Tools (aimed at) compassion, trust, empathy, love, and ethical discernment– art & music– are already in our possession. The next sensible step would be to use them”
(Aberjhani poet).


About the Author:

After Jim Winters arrived as a jazz trombonist for years, he now has now finished his second year as a graduate student here at IMRC. He owns two hurdy gurdys, thus exploring drone-musical work and the aesthetic value of unfinished music. His concentration ranges from experimental-musical composition to photos, sometimes wondering about the colonization of 12-tone Western music vs. noise.

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