Learning without understanding is the mere accumulation of knowledge. One can only understand what is learnt by applying that which is learnt, only that will bring understanding. Well, this blog had to start off on a philosophical note, which is not the intention for the discussion that will be presented. This is merely to set the context from which the point will be argued, because, basically, when it comes to discussing music and entertainment everyone has their own opinion of what the correct context for the basis of argument should be. I would like to be as real as possible when presenting the points I want to present because basically what is being discussed has had and is continuing to have a real profound impact on our reality, even though we may not realise it.
Music is one such aspect of life in which everyone has the ability of free expression, basically when one produces a piece of music, the basic assumption to the listener is that the producer is attempting to bring to life sounds and patterns of sound that have not been previously heard. That is, those patterns and sounds exist within the producers head, and would to share them on the open world, either with family, friends or strangers. Most cultures around the world celebrate the five senses that we have through expression, either through sound by music story telling, or poetry; sight which is through dance, and visual expression, what we have come to call art; taste and smell which is through food and drink; and physical feeling through contact with various objects that stimulate our sense of touch and feel. Most cultures have had and maintained the practiced these activities, and have been reserved for moments when most individuals have time to indulge in these five senses without the need for interruption.
At each end of the day, when people come to gather around a common fire, what is usually shared is the experiences of the day, what one has learnt or seen. All this is shared with the tribe, the tribe that shares a common cultural doctrine, what is observed out in the open world becomes common, the intelligence of the tribe grows in this way, simply because all new experience is simply shared. Now, it would appear to be boring to simply provide for a word for word account of what happens throughout the day or the seasons or the years, because it does not cultivate imagination in what one sees. Therefore, what this has given rise to is abstraction, what is seen is summarised and presented in an abstract manner that stimulates the imagination of the individual, and this is where art was born. It is simply an abstract view of the world as interpreted by the artist. That is where the skill of the artist lies, in how much what is seen can be abstracted to create something that piques the interest of as wide and diverse a group as possible. Different cultures have had different methods of expression and abstraction, which is why based on where a particular culture is located, what is seen and said differs location to location, which is what bred cultural diversity.
Each culture has its own song, its own dance, its own art and its own food. That is how each culture understands this diverse world. Through all these various forms of expression what is shared is a common vision, a common ideal, and common values on how the world is interpreted. This is what creates cohesion and camaraderie between different people that have different experiences in the world that is before them, and as a culture evolves, how it expresses itself evolves as well. One could say the art the culture experiences has an influence on the what the culture of the group actually is.
The modern world has changed adopted these same principles and most things around the world relating to experience have been categorised into sections that facilitate the ease of ones understanding of what it is the individual is experiencing. The term entertainment has evolved to define all the methods of cultural expression that a group of individuals that share a common ideal. The modern world has evolved as a result of the increased understanding of the elements of culture, and this has come about as a result of the continued refinement of the elements of expression, such an example is in music, such as the refinement of the piano, guitar, and several other wind instruments so that they can produce a clear and crisp sound for the discerning listener and the audiophile. Such refined instruments have obviously refined the way music is produced, and the eventual sounds that people tend to enjoy, this refinement has necessitated the further refinement of music as a cultural element such as the activity of dividing the different music styles that have resulted into genres. Genres came about as a need to understand what sound is being produced or listened to, the only use for genres has been in cataloging music into definable division and this has become very useful when one decides to sell their music to a specific audience.
The Commercialisation of Cultural Elements of Expression
The modern world has evolved quite rapidly over the past 50 years, and this development has left most cultures in the dust as to what they should do with themselves. The old adage has always been maintained, and that is, culture is dynamic, meaning it changes with time; it changes with what people see and understand with the world around them. The biggest drivers and influences of the cultural changes most people experience have been as a result of technology innovation and adoption, and most cultures have been slow to adopt rapidly changing technology. Cultural elements of expression have come to be labelled art, and different elements of art have come to be refined, quite rapidly, by the evolution of technology in a fast paced world.
So the question that may arise would be, what use is art and culture in a modern and rapidly changing world where knowledge and understanding can be systematically passed down through various education systems and structures that exist today. Art and expression has been given the back seat in human evolution by the modern world. It has been relegated to a compartment that bears little or no use to the progress of man today, because most art is mere entertainment now. This has given rise to the confusion of what artists really are, they are understood today as mere entertainment, and the new paradigm is that art is merely for entertainment. The only recognition that is reserved for art and expression has become monetary acknowledgement and that the artist must use what they create to earn money to enable them to produce another “artwork” so as to keep their work or progress of growth through expression going. This is incredibly complicated because expression does not operate under the action and reward mechanism, it is a subtle and complicated process that requires the full attention of an individual to understand.
The commercial world has been successful in creating its own art, and hence entertainment, and speaking from the mind of a true artist most of it becomes boring simply because it is uninspired. The only motivation for producing a new piece of music or artwork is monetary reward, and what that becomes is mostly a regurgitation of what has “worked”, that is, what has sold simply because one is uncertain of how people will accept the “new”art, and what one is looking for is certainty. Art then becomes a business, and in business in a fast moving world what one looks to for inspiration is never new, never inspiring and this is what results in a destructive feedback loop that is surely the end of a craft.
The Rise of Self Entertainment
The world of technology and commercial production of art, which is what is called entertainment is increasingly giving the consumer power over which artist they choose to follow, which “type” of art one wishes to consume, pay for. This immense power over choice has an effect on which artists are empowered and which ones continue to struggle by the way side, scrapping together the little money to keep the art going. In the mind of the consumer, there is a plethora of choice for which art they can consume, pay for. The variety seems to be endless, and this keeps the consumer thinking they have got the best this world has to offer in terms of art and culture, simply because they pay a premium for it. In the mind of the consumer the artist has little relevance to the art they create, the life and experiences of the artist has little or no relevance to the work they are producing. As a result, the consumer will continue to reinforce the artist that seems to be “making it”as a measure of progress, but this may run counter intuitive because their work has been continuously reinforced because of their success in commercialising their piece of artwork and the thought may run that the next “new” thing that will come about will be previously unseen, when it may be a slight modification of previous work. This may provide an explanation of why commercial/mainstream/popular culture is always shortlived and uninspiring, it goes to lose its taste within a short while and there is always a need for the next new thing, which is why commercial artworks have a poorer quality of expression, all of it is done to appeal to the person that is out to entertain themself, until such a time a new artist is discovered, and the cycle continues on again.