I used to ask my music students “What is art to you?” “What is music to you?” I would get a vast array of answers from Minecraft to Led Zeppelin to Taylor Swift (yes really) to Daft Punk. I was both amused and disheartened by the responses I got. On one hand I liked that not one of them had the same answer but I also realised that there is so much media out there now, so much noise that it’s no longer possible unless you are trained and knowledgeable in that field to tell what is “quality” and what is nonsense fluff that was made strictly for the sake of exploiting a particular market.
I also realised that I had become an elitist (in my early 20s no doubt) and that just because I was classically trained from a young age and had the experience to back up my “high and mighty” attitude it didn’t mean that,
a) Anybody cared
b) Anyone would change their opinion because I told them so
c) Anybody would pay for or invest in anything because I told them it was better than what they were currently into.
So what is a university graduated, slightly entitled professional musician to do?
I had no idea. So I travelled. I saved up, packed my bags and instruments and left Australia . I was incredibly lucky that in the proceeding years I was able to have a career performing, producing and composing around the world making some fantastic friends for life but I had to make some serious attitude adjustments along the way.
The first was the ever inspiring mantra — No one cares.
Followed by if you want people to care you need to create value for them. You need to capture attention and if you have something to say it needs to be presented in a way that is engaging enough to warrant them sitting through your video or blog and liking it enough to want to see more of it.
I started asking philosophical questions like “What is quality?” “What attracts people to this?” “Are we all doomed?” “How does this affect peoples lives? And is it positive or negative?”
I started observing and I began seeing patterns. I studied business, social psychology and marketing for the purpose of seeing how consumers behave, not just in the world of media but in all markets. That of course is a whole subject unto itself but my main takeaway from it was one word.
That’s right. Once you are emotionally invested in something you are far more likely to support it, click it, like it, pay for it.
All of a sudden I understood why people were paying more attention to Kendrick Lamar mumbling about “b*tches” and his “d-ck as big as the Eiffel Tower” than the latest sonically brilliant and thoughtfully composed Dream Theater album.
As it turns out behind the bravado and misogyny Kendrick had a pretty vivid insight into what it’s like to grow up as a poor person in America, lost between the conflicting values of the past and more socially aware views of today’s youth. In other words, it was relevant to people’s lives. It was a reflection of society. It was rebellious and a movement that a new generation of hip hop fans could call their own. It contained a visual style associated with modern pop culture and most importantly it was tapping into people’s emotions much like Nirvana did in the 90s or Linkin Park did in the early 2000's.
Is it good? Who knows? Has it carved it’s niche into early 21st century consciousness? Yes. And that is powerful regardless of my personal opinion.
Since then I’ve thrown the rule book out the window. There is only perception and belief. These are crafted by our experiences and our memories and it’s been a complete odyssey to walk through the last couple of years listening, adapting and learning as the world and technology changes at such a rapid rate.
So that brings me to my experience at The Shortcut. A place where you are free to explore, learn and meet people who probably know more than you about something. It’s very inspiring to be around people that are working really hard and also challenging, testing and discovering ways to improve how we work, how we live and how we make our ideas realities.
So to answer the question I used to ask so often. What is Art?
There is no correct answer. But the closest response I have is this:
Art is something that resonates with you emotionally. It makes you feel. It makes you think. It pushes you to go on, and it changes the world.