procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

cool music. uncool musicians.

sort of following on from the previous discussions, how do we sort out the discontinuity with the cool-ness of music, with the un-cool-ness of the musicians?
a couple of cases in point are:

  • miles davis: drug addict, child neglecter, wife beater
  • queen: hopelessly amoral. not just the obvious reasons either
  • foofighters: support a "charity" claiming AIDS is a conspiracy
  • janis joplin, jimi hendrix, jim morrison: members of the so-called "27 club", all who died drug-related deaths (at age 27)

  • now, i love the music these people make, despite their (a)moral standing, but i sometimes ask the question, if they would have made the music they did, were they not the type of people they were?
    i wonder whether their life of excess, and the resultant polarising affect they had (have) on people, actually drove them to create the kind of music they did

    (of course, this applies to artists aswell - think brett whitley, h.r.geiger et al)

    whilst i have nothing against the sons of korah, the creative edge we see in these others is often breathtaking.
    perhaps it's all to do with the closeness between genius and madness.
    maybe someone can point me in the direction of a morally upstanding, well-collected, widely renowned, genius? i, as always, am happy to be reproved.

    this isn't about dissing these people who i regard as gifted. however i'm quite happy for you to diss the idea

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    Blogger byron said...

    maybe someone can point me in the direction of a morally upstanding, well-collected, widely renowned, genius?
    J. S. Bach
    Immanuel Kant

    7:05 pm  
    Blogger Car-o-line said...

    :O someone beat me to saying JS Bach...

    another classical composer: Handel

    12:06 am  
    Blogger psychodougie said...

    but what of mozart (if Amadeus is anything to go by) and björk (watch out journalists!), van gogh (sorry, i couldn't hear that, could you say it into my still-attached ear?)?

    granted, there are nice, family-type guys, who do alright for themselves, and good luck to them.
    i guess i'm wondering if there is any link between excess in life, and a phenomenal, once-in-a-generation, unsurpassed creativity? does it make it easier? it must be hard to be a nice guy and at the same time, free yourself from conventions, expectations, well-meant criticism, and be groundbreaking!

    12:23 pm  
    Blogger Georgina said...

    Hi Doug,
    There's a whole series of data on this regarding personality of musicians which one of our counsellors has looked at. In terms of secular psychology, there seems to be a trend with the way musicians behave and their personality and their musicality. I'm not sure of the details of his research though, and he doesn't work Thursday or Friday.

    Regarding otherwise, I think that for a Christian their all-time-obsession should be, but never actually is because we are all sinful, God, and therefore because we are trying to serve him any other passion (such as music) should take a second seat. Also, we are primarily about relationships with others as well, so then music takes a second seat to that.

    And maybe the excesses of being a famous musician (such as alcohol, drugs, parties and the like) leads people to behave in these ways. They are already massively creative and very much into exploring new and unknown stuff, and then they get hit with the culture.

    And then of course there's the pressure of always being "up", like Robin Williams has said, or always "composing" which may drive people to seek bad behaviours.

    And maybe then there's also the loneliness that comes with being famous, and people self-medicating to cover that loneliness.

    And maybe there's just plain sinfulness and the desire to seek other things other than God and go after pleasure for pleasure's sake.

    Just some random thoughts...

    5:37 pm  
    Blogger deb-o-raw said...

    Well Doug, I'm no trendy intellectual, but I personally don't think any of those musicians are particularly cool... except I do like Queens "I want to break free"

    9:03 am  
    Blogger psychodougie said...

    again, the coolness is not the question, deb-o-raw (any relation to car-o-line?)
    the creative edge is my query. these examples certainly have that special something, like them or not. to break with convention, start out in a new direction, be the first one to do something in a new way.

    is there any link between that and their excess of life?

    2:27 pm  
    Blogger Hayley said...

    who was it that wrote the concordance for the KJV in the 1700s???

    Anyway, he was institutionalised 4 times in his life...yet single-handedly wrote a concordance… counting, recording and defining words in the bible in his spare time – what a hobby???

    His concordance apparently has never been out of print, still to this day!!!

    The Excess of an Christian Eccentric... PRAISE GOD!!!

    4:09 pm  
    Blogger Hayley said...

    Answering my own question: Alexander Cruden

    5:46 pm  
    Blogger Annette said...

    hey, my comment (an empathetic response) got a bit out of control so i made it a post. See here:

    7:26 am  
    Blogger Christopher said...

    maybe someone can point me in the direction of a morally upstanding, well-collected, widely renowned, genius?

    Hello, I found my way here via Annette.

    As far as contemporary musicians go look no further than Sufjan Stevens a beacon of hope to any Christian artist.
    His album Seven Swans has some very explict Christian songs such as Abraham dealing with the sacrifice of Isaac and the righteousness of Abraham, and The Transfiguration dealing with, well, the transfiguration in folk-pop context. This is no wishy washy Christianity.
    His most recent album Illnois went to number 4 on the US independent charts, and was lauded by many as a work of genius.
    He is respected and loved by musical snobs around the world, and he is thoroughly Christian.

    Sorry for the long rant. Especially if you are already familiar with Sufjan.

    9:47 am  
    Blogger byron said...

    Having initially suggested some exceptions, I'll grant you that they are rare. Just thinking of philosophers, of the top 20 or 30 names, I suspect that no more than a handful would have been married, and many would not have been considered socially well-adjusted.

    I also suspect that economics has a lot to do with it - having the space to do the thinking and writing means being paid to do it (most academics spend too much time teaching, marking and making applications for grants) or having a private fortune (like most 'great writers'). Virginia Woolf points this out very persuasively in A Room of One's Own.

    12:15 pm  
    Blogger byron said...

    And just to return to my first post, Immanuel Kant might not have been totally 'well-adjusted' either. He was rather obsessive and anal - or so I've heard.

    12:21 pm  
    Blogger Christopher said...

    And Socartes wasn't exactly kind to his wife. Especially in sending her away when she was in tears during the final hours before drinking the hemlock.
    Then there is the whole Greek sexuality thing.

    1:01 pm  
    Blogger byron said...

    Socrates - yeah, I'd forgotten that bit.

    1:32 pm  

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