clearskies, bluewater

Insights, reflections and creative imaginings for our awakening world

Commercial appeal vs. integrity

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One of the first blogs I ever read when I first had the idea to start my own, was http://ringingtrue.net/ by Robert Morrow. Morrow has written a novel, entitled Ringing True, which he showcases on his blog, along with the music from his group Acoustic Disturbance. He also writes thoughtful, insightful and intelligent posts on topics concerning sex, politics, life in these crazy times we live in, and a host of other interesting subjects. I nearly always appreciate his slant on the world, and his posts often give me food for thought.

And yet. His last post was entitled ‘What’s the point?’ http://ringingtrue.net/2012/03/30/whats-the-point/ wherein he writes,

I don’t have much energy about the new creative work in part because my old creative work hasn’t made much of a dent in modern consciousness. Ringing True can’t compete against the horny vampires and devious zombies who currently enthrall the reading public because it deals with the real world and nobody wants to deal with that. Acoustic Disturbance has the same problem. People would rather listen to vowel-twisting singers mouthing repetitive lyrics about nothing much than hear music like Last Past the Post that reminds them that there are unfortunates in the world who could use a little help. Both works are filled with humor and sex, but neither satire nor sensuality will save them. The world is not interested in self-published works that work on multiple levels beyond titillation and have the audacity to suggest to people that there are problems in the world that we should probably pay attention to now and then.

How I sympathize with his complaint! For you who have been reading my latest posts, it is easy to see that I share similar feelings with Morrow. He makes a very clear point to say that it seems nobody wants to deal with the real world anymore. It is easy to become discouraged as an artist, writer or musician in our modern times, to be tempted to throw in the towel because we feel that nobody out there is noticing, hearing or reading us, that only the people who create with mass, commercial appeal in mind will be successful at their chosen creative endeavors. Ostensibly, this is so. We have only to look no further than our computer screen or television to see the evidence of rampant commercialism more or less everywhere. Mainstream media demands mainstream thinking across the board, including all forms of ‘entertainment.’ Because as we all know, it is entertainment that everybody wants, right? We don’t want the truth, in images, words or voices. We only want to be taken out of our pitiful, boring lives, to forget our actual problems and disfunctionality as much as possible, to flip on the computer or TV and … zone out. Our society wants the fantasy, so much in fact, that now people can go into virtual reality games like Second Life on the internet and actually acquire a whole other persona, a new and more exciting virtual life, and thus ‘live’ in another way through this computer-generated world, be a different person entirely. Which is fine, except for the fact that none of it is real. Sooner or later, the person will have to wake up from their virtual reality and come back to this actual life along with all of its problems and boredom.

And yet. Robert Morrow and I are far from alone in our desire to connect in a larger way with the world, to leave the realms of obscurity and find a wide audience who will appreciate our ways of observing and writing about our often insane and ridiculous world. Consider the following folk (these just off the top of my head, now you can add your own examples): Kurt Vonnegut, Samuel Beckett, Jackson Pollock, Emily Dickenson, Gary Snyder, Van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, Rainer Maria Rilke, Laurie Anderson, Yoko Ono, Frank Zappa. The list goes on and on, back into the mists of antiquity, of the nonconformists who worked during their lifetimes to bring forth what burned within them to be expressed through Art. Were these creative human beings ego-maniacs who had or desired big money backers and a huge hunger for fame and notoriety, or were they rather people with something to say, to be expressed, and through their determination to express what was inside them in the most masterful way possible, eventually became known and highly respected in their field? The difference is vast.

I see a big part of our frustrations as having a lot to do with the sheer amount of artistic endeavors attempted in our times due to the ease of putting it out on the internet. This fact has changed the game irreversibly for creative people. Everybody and his brother can put up a music video on Youtube in a matter of seconds. As we bloggers are well aware, we can create a blog site for ourselves in a few minutes, and begin sharing our thoughts with the world. Writers are self-publishing their books by the scores. Artists can upload their paintings or photography quickly to various art websites to be viewed by whoever. It has all become so immediate, so easy, and also so very banal, that any creative act starts to be a-dime-a-dozen. We find a paradox: the more people who say to themselves, ‘yes! I too am an artist of one or another kind, and I too wish to show what I have to offer to the wider world,’ the more commonplace it all starts to become. And so, as it always does in our capitalistic world, it comes down to one simple thing: What will sell the most, create the most money for the companies who are publishing books, making films, for art galleries who are selling art, for record companies who are making CDs?  Robert Morrow goes on to write,

A new conformity now dominates modern consciousness, as if all thought is immediately organized, classified and labeled a split-second after its birth. This in turn reinforces endlessly predictable patterns of behavior. I honestly can’t remember the last time I was surprised by anything that I read in the news. It’s the same old shit in the same old cycle and people take a certain comfort in sameness, no matter how awful it is. Your mind can file away the various atrocities that human beings constantly commit because they’re the same old atrocities that were committed yesterday, last month and last year, and it’s good to know that the world is nothing if not consistent.

What has changed is that people now have more channels to make themselves and their work available to the public. Anyone can create a blog, publish a novel or produce a piece of music. Unfortunately, the patterns of predictability and conformity dictate that those who follow the formula will have a better chance of becoming known and those who strive for originality will be banished to obscurity.

There are many voices shouting for attention in this world, mine included, and I should not feel disappointed, ashamed or surprised that I seem to be destined to toil in relative anonymity. I realize that as a single individual on a planet of seven billion that I deserve as much attention as anyone, which isn’t much. There are people far more talented than I am whose work earns as little attention as mine.

I don’t care about personal fame. But I can’t shake the feeling that my work deserves more. When you put heart, soul and mind into something, you can’t help but feel that.

It is the perennial artist’s dilemma, the battle of one’s soul between the need for artistic integrity and maintaining a sense of purity in one’s art form, and the desire to be known, recognized and applauded for one’s brilliant contributions. I daresay there are more brilliant and frustrated artists (of all the arts) in the world now than ever before. What can be done about this situation, if anything? I really don’t have any answers. But I encourage Robert Morrow, and all of you reading, to simply carry on with the work which burns inside you, which has to be expressed. And to not believe that no one ‘out there’ cares or notices. Some do. And they are the ones who matter.
“Fact of the matter is, there is no hip world, there is no straight world. There’s a world, you see which has people in it who believe a variety of different things. Everybody believes in something and everybody, by virtue of the fact that they believe in something, use that something to support their own existence”. — Frank Zappa

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Author: SingingBones

When we sing over the bones, we are calling the wild nature, the instinctive soul back, singing it alive again. To live with our wildness intact, is the greatest gift a woman can give herself. "It is the holy poetry and singing we are after." C.P. Estes

4 thoughts on “Commercial appeal vs. integrity

  1. I can tell you that one thing that should be on your alternative income list is writing! I love the way you express things.

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  2. I agree with what you’re saying, but I do believe in my heart of hearts that more people are looking for something different–writing and art that speaks to their souls and rocks their very beings. Keep reaching out to those seekers…

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  3. Thanks for the comment and for reading!..I like the phrase, ‘rocks their very beings’ Yes!! that is what people need, some soul-rocking, shaking them up from their complacency and doldrums. Thanks for the encouragement.

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