September 23, 2019

Essay #1: What makes music, film, and art so special?


Being as self-reflective and introspective as I am, I sometimes have deep thoughts that simply cannot be captured or conveyed in my poetry or music. These thoughts relate to human experience and various subjects related to this concept. For this reason, I am opening up the AirdriftSignals music magazine to another feature that I would like to add, called Essays, and my first essay will be titled “What makes music, film, and art so special?” I will continue to explore this idea and others as they come to mind in future essays.

What makes music, film, and art so special? 

For any living species on the planet, its main directive is to survive and thrive. This is ingrained in our and all other living species’ DNA. It is the most basic, primal need to survive and reproduce for the future survival of the species. However, once a species has become abundant and prosperous with plenty of resources, there comes another set of needs that develops. These are basically, the need to be heard, understood, appreciated, and remembered. Also included in this group is happiness and self-enlightenment, but I just want to focus on the first group that I mentioned. If you haven’t already guessed, I am borrowing from the theory of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. From this, we can discern why the creation and enjoyment of the arts are so special and important to humankind.

As a developing man, I never had much of a desire or interest in sports. I used to be a willing participant, through which I found a lot of enjoyment, but as I grew older, it never grabbed my attention after my formative years. A lot of people really enjoy sports games and are fans of teams. The games themselves, the closely scored ones rather, I’ve found to be exceptionally exhilarating when I’ve been caught in a room with people and a sports game on the tv. When anticipating the outcome and wanting your team to win, it can be quite an adrenaline rush. This interest that others have satisfies a competitive gene that exists in all life forms. It is a trait that is vital to our survival, and it can be treated healthily or unhealthily. It also exists in many other forms of society other than sports, whether it is in a workplace, politics, or even the arts. The highest achievement of art though isn’t wholly concerned with competition.

As sports ticks two of the boxes of these higher needs, being appreciation (or respect), and legacy, art attempts to raise this already high bar of human excellence even higher with the artists’ attempt to be heard and understood. These four higher needs of human existence, being heard, understood, appreciated, and remembered, are actually important to all people, but they all come into play with the creation of music and art. As people use their hobbies, passions, and talents to achieve success and understanding of oneself, there is a therapeutic element to the process of creation. The same way that physical exercise is good for one's health, the creation of music, writing, drawing, and painting, among other things, is an exercise that sometimes doubles as an exorsize of that which is troubling or difficult to deal with. These obstacles in life, whether it is family trouble, loneliness, depression, or what-have-you, is filtered through the many hobbies and crafts that people enjoy to do. When people create something, they mostly do it for their own personal growth and understanding on a subconscious level, but almost all who create want their art to be seen and witnessed by others. At the same time, the emotions that they've infused into whatever medium they decide to pursue is a real snapshot of their emotional and mental state of mind at the time. The ultimate goal of the artist is to be heard or seen, to be understood as deep, emotional beings, to be appreciated for their craft, and to be remembered.

As for the last need, it's a common desire of most people to want to be remembered for what they did in this physical life. It isn't hard to see the prevalence of legacies that have been left by important figures of generations past. But this doesn't mean that all people want to be remembered on such a grand scale. Some people just want to make a difference in their communities and their families. And so this fact of the matter leads me to another question that I will attempt to explore: how is art remembered and how is this different from other forms of history? The answer lies in how it is experienced. When thinking of the past athletes, political leaders, entrepreneurs, and inventors who have left a mark in the record books, their achievements are remembered and appreciated, but there is a fine distinction between these types of historical figures and recorded works by artists. Take for example any of the psychedelic paintings by Salvador Dalí, or the Beatles album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, or the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of The Moon. Each of these recorded works, whether on canvas, tape, or film, all have a unique quality to them, and that is that they can be experienced by younger generations, sometimes for the first time, for decades and (hopefully) centuries to come. Why do so many people still enjoy classical music, which came from an era nearly 300 years ago? Some might argue that it is because of the emotion that it invokes within us, or that it serves as a time capsule of a time when there was more sophistication in society. But no one can deny that the experience of classical music will continue to be enjoyed as long as human history persists and survives against the future threats that humanity might face.

As far as athletes in the history books are concerned, are their achievements experienced "for the first time" by younger generations? I would argue that their records and achievements are remembered and appreciated, but there is no way to experience them like new unless there are specific video recordings that a person who is learning their history is watching. Still, this doesn't compare to being there and in the moment when great athletes performed, and the same can be said of musical artists when their music is first released into the world or when they perform in concert. However, there is a difference when the actual work is created or recorded, released, and preserved, as is the case for the most influential and important movies in film history, in which a copy of each is preserved by the library of congress.

In conclusion, the ability to experience the art of famous painters, sculptors, authors, musicians, and filmmakers, at any point in time, and sometimes for the first time, is a uniquely special characteristic of historic works. When artists can rise above the apparent mediocrity of their time and stand out as distinct voices, their work may have a chance of passing the test of time to be remembered for years to come. Even as some art seems very of its time, there are the works that stand as timeless, and those are some of the most universally rewarding pieces to experience since they address a vital part of the human condition. While other notable figures have certainly made their mark in history, the works of music, film, and art will always be revered for its unique ability to be experienced and appreciated in any year or time period, and the artists that have not been lost to time have successfully achieved their higher purpose for the greater good and enrichment of humanity.