There’s no denying that music, painting, dance, theatre, sculpture et al are all part of the same family, but music seems to be the black sheep, the bastard relation. By music I think I mean ‘popular’ rock, indie, R&B etc. Most people would state that Mozart’s finest works are art, but claiming that Lady Gaga is an artist would perhaps meet with a more contentious response. As a mode of creative expression, an exhibition of emotions and mode of connection between the expresser and expressed to, music fits the bill in the way all other art does.
Music is probably accessed by more people than any other art, and this in itself may lead people to question its credentials as a bona fide art form. Art is still considered the preserve of the elite, as something only those with time or money to spare can indulge in – how can you enjoy art if you are down a mine or up a chimney.
This argument rests on two unfounded but often presumed ideas. Firstly that art is an addition to gritty real life, and secondly that art is there to be enjoyed and is a happy experience. We tend to use the terms music artist to prefer to plastic production line singers, those that rather than effervescing bundles of creativity like Blake, Johnson, Hughes et al, are actually the most creatively nullified people in the business.
Just like people question whether modern art or pop art or Emin is real art, so the experience of most people of music on a frequent basis is popular music, easy to listen, lowest common denominator, which somehow serves to suggest that there is no talent. It’s like an inverse of the advertising slogan ‘X million people can’t be wrong.’ When it comes to music it seems that if lots of people like something it can’t be good.
The Top 40 is just as much, if not more so, targeted to appeal to our visual senses rather than hearing, with its glossy images, beautiful singers and technologically enhanced videos. Our artistic appreciation is perhaps geared to be channelled through our eyes, and in this sense music has never had so much in common with the rest of the art world.
A simple game of word association can show the different connotations associated with music. Say art, you say maybe ‘gallery’, or ‘world’ – world, existence, elemental, all encompassing, a necessity.
Say music and the next word to roll off the tongue is ‘business’, something slightly steel, dirty, a ruthless veneer rather than genuine love.
Music is arguably a less solid, more transient piece of art, certainly more so than visual or physical pieces, and thus surely its emotional resonances are higher as they are always evolving.
A song changes every time a band plays it, every time that an audience reacts differently or responds in an alternative manner. In this sense it is that transient unidentifiable connection between the musician and the listener that is the really creative process.
A painting is situated in a gallery, a play in a theatre, a dance in a studio, and thus the artist has a very clear idea of the area in which the art will be consumed and understood, therefore more control over their product. However with music the variables are vast. Once the piece of music is packaged and made available for other people there are countless ways in which these people will react and interact. Does a musician therefore have less ownership, as without a designated space they cannot demand full attention? Music is perhaps more truly for the people than any other art form.
A musician has to compete with the irritating DJ interrupting, the traffic noise as someone walks with their mp3, the scraping of plates as the song is played in a cafe, the mix button, the skip button. And the music world is potentially more fickle – whilst it is easier to gain recognition, that fashion and gratitude can be quickly lost, falling from grace faster than one can say New Musical Express.
What is the definition of art? Is it juxtaposed with science? Or is it a form of expression, an outflow of emotion that can’t be stopped. Maybe it’s both, for so many music is essential, not an appendage to life, but fundamental to its continuation as well as decoration for the experience. Perhaps for those reading this it doesn’t even matter – music is not just art; it’s the whole world.