The view from here…
Last night here in Italia, Brescia to be specific, NoteSpeak pianist-co/composer Marco and I had dinner with two close friends. One reason, among many, that I love these people is for their impassioned thoughtful discourse. Last night’s discussion revolved around their outrage that someone might be as moved by John Lennon’s murder as by Che Guevara’s and we began to debate the idea that the artist’s work cannot have the impact of the revolutionary’s. You might assume that I would vociferously protest that a committed honest artist’s ( or artisan as they would prefer to define our species ) work may have as much of an influence on a populace as a revolutionary leader’s. You’d be right.
The four of us at that table are privileged in the countries of our birth, more so even by the fact that we can take the time to wrestle with such questions. Exceedingly lucky that we don’t suffer more pressing issues; such as having to take three hours out of our day to fetch water, to fight for the right to an education, to battle the suppression of free thought or countless other obstacles.
The four of us are not, by a western standard, even near wealthy, however, our financial reality, when confronted with the immigrants’ here in Italia, begs the question of the validity of that supposition.
So setting aside the very comfortable position from which we speak, the idea that one must be militant in creating change to me seems simplistic and even dangerous. To think that Lennon’s oeuvre, writings from his admittedly cushy apartment at 1 W. 72nd Street, must be disregarded because of a lack of commitment to his cause; to categorise the fact that he didn’t redistribute his wealth and became a part of the system rather than subverting it- seems to me a rather limited viewpoint . To insist that he succumbed to capitalism in some sense and state that this precludes an ability to effect change seems to be an oversimplification.
One of the responsibilities of an artist is to connect, otherwise, they are just pissing into the wind. If, as Lennon’s was, a part of their motivation is in correcting social injustice; they must try and touch the minds and hearts of their listeners and as a result, they will influence, teach, guide and cheer their audience whether this is their intended objective or not. Whether they achieve this goal in superior numbers to the revolutionary is immaterial, the two categories needn’t be compared. Certainly, we cannot place more value on the active protest versus the artistic approach.
I love this Global Citizen post as regards the many ways music has effected change, with the hotly debated Lennon on the list.
The essential thing today with a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic bully of a man like Trump in Washington moving his unlawful and blatantly self-serving agenda forward, is that social movements be supported and championed.
Today the active role of the artist within and outside of those movements cannot be undervalued.