If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live.Lin Yutang
Very few writers know what they are doing until they’ve done it.Anne Lamott
The ‘write what you know’ trope works because it’s easier to write the truth. But what’s authentic isn’t always what’s best for the art.
David Bowie modified his voice when he sang “I’m Afraid of Americans.” He wanted to make sure the tone matched up with the voice of the character (himself) portraying it. He interpreted music through motion. Brian Eno said that Bowie did what was best for the song, not clinging to the usual memoir approach of a singer.
“A lot of people think that singers should always be sincere, that it has to be their own soul coming out. That’s b — — — -. What you’re really doing is working like a playwright. You’re making little plays and the singer is the lead character.”Brian Eno
Eno encourages fictional storytelling. Making art is an act. It’s supposed to be fantasy. But some artists think that the truth is what sets them free and leave it to their fans are there to sort it out.
“It’s that ridiculous teenage idea that when Mick Jagger sings, he’s telling you something about his own life. It’s so arrogant to think that people would want to know about it. This is my problem with Tracey Emin. Who f****** cares.”Brian Eno
Art breaks the rules. It takes inspiration from the real world to create something new. It dances with fear. Artists continue dreaming into adulthood, without taking everything so seriously.
“Children learn through play, adults learn through art.”
Eno’s modus operandi it to make stuff that’s “a continuation of what we do as children.” He recently released a new album on Warp Records called The Ship. He also created a ‘visual music’ light piece called The Zenith. Eno creates things he wished existed.
Both Eno and Bowie teach us to have fun with our curiosity by showing the world what we can see in our heads.
I first heard of artist Kate Bush on Tricky’s Back to Mine album in 2003. The former Massive Attack frontman also had this to say about the singer:
“I don’t believe in god, but if I did, [Kate Bush’s] music would be my Bible.”
Watch any of her iconic music videos. Her unique fashion sense and dances inspired the likes of Bjork and Tori Amos. Like David Bowie, she interpreted music as an act and sang and danced in a way that befitted the character of the song. So why wasn’t she a star like Bowie? One of her biggest admirers, Andre 3000 of Outkast, once explained:
“Kate Bush’s music opened my mind up. She was so bugged-out, man, but I felt her. She’s so f*ckin’ dope, so underrated and so off the radar.”
Before Bush became a recluse, she made 50 demo tapes by the age of fifteen, got signed, and eventually went on tour in 1979 to promote her first album The Kick Inside. As Emmanuel Happsis writes for KQED writes:
“And then she stopped touring completely, as if to say, I don’t need your validation. I will release life-changing music on my own schedule whenever I want and you will flake on your friends to stay home and cry to it.”
Like the release of any new iPhone, her life secrecy inspired ever more interest. She even made fans wait 12 years between album releases — she released Aerial in 2005 after 1993’s The Red Shoes. And finally, 35 years later, she’s back on tour in London.
Bush took an unusual, slow route to making music – making her fanbase beg for her reappearance. After a long wait, it is a relief to have her back.
Do yourself a favor and catch up on everything in ‘Kate Bush: A Crash Course for the Non-Believer.’
Culture is the by-product of timelessness. It is too rigid to change within itself but pliable enough to influence the birth of something new.
Take hip-hop for instance. It emerged from the blues and soul genres before it. Today, hip hop lives on through new forms of music like UK grime, which also shares elements of reggae.
Similarly, black culture continues to sows the seeds of American culture to this day.
Some cultures, like some genres and old technologies (e.g. vinyl), stand the test of time. They matter, unlike the fads and interim successors that appear original only to get lost tomorrow.
Culture is a hodgepodge of durable ingredients. It is built on top of something else but stands on its own.