Why Do You Make The Art You Do?

Dear Reader,

I’m going to preface this by saying that I will try my best to not make this all about me. It seems like my last few posts have been focused entirely on my recent musical endeavors. And I suppose that’s okay because (a) this is a blog and (b) I’m an unsigned indie musician with a new album to promote. However, considering this is one of the last blog posts I will write for this website, I thought I would try to generate a bit of a discussion. This blog post was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend a few weeks ago. They knew that I had been writing novels for some time and recently learned I had made an album and was heading into the musical world—which, admittedly, seems like a bit of a switch. And it is, on the surface level. The question they posed was very simple: Why music?

And it’s a question I’ve asked myself a few times, especially when I really started getting involved with music a few years ago. I was not the child who started playing piano at two years old and wrote their first composition at the age of five. I didn’t even really touch a piano until I was around 18. Yet, I’ve always been fascinated with forms of expression for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I loved theatre and acting and being able to convey emotions through tone and phrasing. I loved that you could take even the simplest of lines and deliver it a thousand different ways (or, if you’re Meryl Streep, five-thousand different ways in fifty different languages).

This interest quickly shifted towards films, which (in my mind) was like theatre, except it offered different possibilities. For a while, I was obsessed with movie trailers (perhaps even more than the movie itself) not just because the trailer tended to show the best material from the film, but also because most trailers included music, which added an additional element of using sounds to compliment or contradict the images being shown. However, I was only really interested in making a film if I could play all the parts—which isn’t really how films work.

Around this time, I started discovering works by writers by Joyce Carol Oates, Ernest Hemingway, Don DeLillo, Michael Cunningham, Sylvia Plath, Richard Yates, Raymond Carver, and so on. Because I had really bad taste in movies when I was younger, I had been absorbing far too many cliches, and I immediately became fascinated with the way that these writers could string words together in a certain order to say something that not only sounded unique and fresh, but also rang true. So then, because I was 11, I just decided to be a novelist and ended up writing novels for about 9 years. And I enjoyed the experience. I thought it was interesting. Fun, even, at times. But the thing was that I didn’t love it. I never felt that I accomplished anything. (And, on a side note, if you read the novels, it’s pretty clear that I didn’t accomplish anything more than simply stretch out a story to 300 pages and include a handful of sentences that weren’t full of cliches.) And, perhaps most importantly, I felt that I needed more. I loved (and still do love) writing, but I wanted to perform the material, to say every word a certain way, to add in pauses and moving images and things that couldn’t be described by words alone. For a while, I thought that I would just settle for being a really bad novelist who made my own audio-books and book trailers.

Then I started listening to Joni Mitchell. And Fiona Apple. And Elliott Smith. And Madonna. And Lana Del Rey. And Kate Bush. And Tom Waits. And Cat Power. And there I found artists who were not only crafting language to say something, who were not only using their voices to express emotions of all kinds, who were not only involved in every part of the artistic process, who were not only splicing images together to make powerful videos, who were not only expressing themselves in fascinating ways, but who were artists that I respected, admired, and most importantly, connected with. I listened (and still do listen) to their songs hundreds of times. My days started and ended with them. They gave me the gift of feeling fully understood and have saved my life on far too many occasions. And this, I suppose, is the answer for “why music?”: because I love it. Because it amazes, challenges, and fulfills me. Because it is everything I’ve been looking for in art. Because it is everything.

So, now that I’m done rambling on about myself, I turn the question to you. What has your artistic journey been like? Why do you make the art that you do? Leave a comment down below and let me know!




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