An uncontrollable pressure relief valve for the questionably sane.

Schools of Jellyfish

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We’re all trying so hard, aren’t we?  Are we getting anywhere?   There are so many of us now; it used to be you didn’t have to do much to make a mark, but now you’ve got to get in the big line.  Or create a whole new ladder to climb.  I’ve always wanted to be an artist, whatever that means.  Different, rebellious, outside-the-box, open road, all that shit.  The funny thing is, I turned thirty and realized the concept is much broader, and there’s no welcome mat for aspiring artists.  Artists are a constant contingency in any population, in some eras they flourish, in others they suffocate.   So much of the modern art culture is a hoax, it’s not easy to find the people intent on making a difference with their ideas. Hipsters, by definition, are horribly contrived.  That’s funny because art should be the opposite of contrivance, not that every hipster considers themselves an artist.  I doubt they even consider themselves hipsters. Although, if you’re wearing dark-framed glasses with a sarong and a hard hat, you probably should.  Pardon the digression, like most of my essays I have a hard time getting to the point in the first paragraph, so here comes the second:

Art should break barriers, shatter convention, illuminate, rejuvenate, and inform the viewer/listener of something beyond their typical consciousness. Ironically, art is being mass-produced and co-opted at an alarming rate.  Perhaps not so alarming considering our relatively gargantuan population compared to, well… before.  But commercial art is still art.  Warhol was right.  People who didn’t understand him immediately thought he was just reproducing commercial logos and getting rich from something trendy.  Most people didn’t understand the depth of his thesis, it wasn’t really about getting rich or doing something easy.  It was about communicating an idea, a prophesy some devotees might call it, that can’t be communicated through language.  Now that I see the previous sentence in writing, I believe that’s the best definition I can give:  Art is communication without words or physical expression.  Best I can do, scholars have been trying to pin it down for years. We can write articles and essays about art’s message, or it’s perceived meaning, but we’ll never be able to communicate effectively as the piece of art itself.  And you won’t understand unless you can step outside the parameters of conventional communication.  You have to feel it.

Rock ‘n Roll music has been a  constant tide of art in postmodern society.  Let me be clear about “Rock’n Roll:”  I’m not merely talking about the legacy of Chuck Berry, Elvis, Little Richard, et. al.  I’m not talking strictly about top-40 radio, although I reluctantly include it in Rock’s definition.  I mean all music that speaks to either crowds or individuals, that transcends typical communication.  This includes Hip-Hop, Classical, Punk, Bluegrass, Jazz, Country, Spirituals, Funk, Melodic Death Metal,  anything that comes from the gut, all of it.  The stuff that makes your balls tingle (ladies insert appropriate analogy here). Even when you don’t understand the message immediately, your intuition says “this means something.”  It’s the music that has to be made, because of the stirring in the artist’s creative innards. What I’m talking about is beyond labeling, “Rock” is the closest word I have to be inclusive of everything, so that’s what I’m using.

I saw an interesting interview with Paul Stanley recently on VH1C (I said earlier I was over thirty, right?).  Now, Paul didn’t sound like the smartest dude in the world, and I doubt anyone other than his groupies consider him an intellectual, but I think he truly understands what Rock  is all about. It’s about 80,000+ people worshipping at the altar of something greater than themselves–coming together with a crushing mass of other human beings to enjoy something simultaneously, to live in the moment–not only individually but en masse.  Not just to enjoy music, but to have an experience while having said experience immediately validated by thousands of your peers.   It is religious, a sacred experience–the kind of thing that’s not  easy to describe, but very human to feel.  Jesus was rock’n’roll.  Evangelical preachers more so, although I think they’re more the top-40 type–they might make you wiggle a bit in your seat, but there’s a more powerful commercial motive behind their art.  In a postmodern world where our churches have failed to keep us interested, occasionally violated us, in a generally dubious society at large where everything can be questioned, we all know deep down that there is something;  something bigger than ourselves, something connecting us, something that can’t be communicated through language.  It happens while riding in the car all the time, but the meaning comes through powerfully in a coliseum.

When a band takes the stage, and we all prostrate ourselves at their feet, dancing, jumping up and down, pumping our fists in the air, we are all swimming in the realization that we are One (whether we realize it consciously or not).  I am you and you are me.  “They” don’t exist, it’s merely “Us.”  Right here and right now.  Getting our rocks off together.  Despite selling billions of dollars worth of merchandise and selling out innumerable stadiums worldwide, KISS takes a lot of shit from “smart” people.  Mostly because they’re unashamed of being commercial.  And being commercial somehow has invalidated their religion, not unlike the Catholic Church.   Paul knows he’s just as much a preacher as he is a rock star, and thank God he does.  Where do you think the term Rock-God comes from?  Rock’n’Roll has always been intuitive proof that all life is connected.  Every time I’ve been in a stadium or large theater, toward the end of a good show, the house lights come on and reveal the squirming mass of humanity that’s been loudly celebrating and worshiping in the darkness. Every time I’ve witnessed this, all I can think of is schools of jellyfish.  Those gelatinous, vaguely flesh-toned invertebrates gently propelling themselves through the tides while pulsing, pulsing, pulsing, constantly brushing up against their neighbor, riding the currents while maintaining a loose but imperative connection with the rest of their like-minded group.  I’ve been to a lot of great shows, but I’m still looking for my particular group of jellyfish.


Written by billlobe

July 26, 2011 at 12:28 pm

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