Authentic Music: Best or Brilliant? Who is to say?
First thing first. I love music - all kinds, all genres. I love listening to music, talking about it, making it. It is a big part of my life. That said, I find this a difficult topic to address. When thinking about authenticity in music, a person needs to move beyond aesthetic appeal, personal taste, and culture - to accomplish this is impossible. Therefore, I do not believe one person can truly judge for others the authenticity of a piece, not even the artist. When creating music, or any type of art, previous history has to come into play. An artists ideas and influences are a big part of what they choose to create.
There have been many visual artists who have tried to break free of the "idea" of art. To recreate the concept of visual art beyond the concepts of traditional values. The Dadaists were such a group. These people were trying to create an authentic experience. My understanding of music is not as deep, though I do recall several early 20th century musicians experimenting outside the realm of what is typically thought of as music. Are these the only people who have created truly authentic art? Does it need to go this far? Most of the population now view these experimental art forms as hokey or far out. How can musicians and artists connect with their audiences on an "authentic" level?
From my point of view, this authenticity must come from the individual listener, and it is their opinion that gives credibility to the artist from their own point of view. When creating personal "authentic" music it needs to be something created from the artist's own humanistic experience. Now, if this is accomplished for the artist or listener the music will certainly sound the 'best' the art stops simply existing as a song, it becomes an emotional journey. It moves you to feel something beyond sound waves hitting your ear. It engages the brain and causes a much deeper experience.
But one person's best could very easily be another person's worst. We are all different - we therefore appreciate different things. Our own personal experiences, personal cultures, and tastes apply. For example, every single one of my friends adores the genius of Tool. They love the lyrics, the brilliance of the music - it is apparently amazing and wonderful in every single way. I personally think it sounds depressing and awful in most cases. I understand it is supposed to be amazing, but I do not like listening to something so dark. My boyfriend loves to listen to it while driving - it energizes and motivates him, it makes him feel inspired. It just makes me want to go to sleep - I find it so dark and depressing. Different tastes.
One of my guilty pleasures is Madonna. I love her music - especially from the 80's. It gives me energy, makes me happy and inspired. The lyrics mean next to nothing however, "Borderline. Feels like I'm going to loose my mind. You just keep on pushing my love over the borderline." Not terribly deep. She probably didn't write that. Is this authentic music? I love it (Borderline is one of my favorite songs), but does it derive deep from Madonna's soul? Probably not.
So the question of authenticity lies in the person, at that specific time and place in their life. We still try to judge, people still win Grammy's, certain bans get signed others do not, certain music stands the test of time, other music fades away into antiquity. It is the work of some artists that reached out across populations and touches on a grander human theme. It is the work of other artists to meet popular tastes, public image and character comes into play here. So today, at this moment I can discuss my personal opinion of what is authentic and what is not - in my own personal opinion.
I do love the Beatles, Cake, Alanis Morrisette, Depesche Mode, Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros, Muse, Ani DiFranco, the work of Thomas Newman and Danny Elfman, Ben Folds, George Winston, Pink Floyd, Regina Spektor and Chavelle to name a few. Really, I could go on forever - but this is a perspective of the wide assortment of musical interests.
Some of these artists I enjoy because of what they have to say. Folk artists such as Ani DiFranco have complex poetry to their lyrics, designed to challenge you. Regina Spektor and Ben Folds are classically trained pianists, also very poetic and technically a very talented musicians. Classic rock artists such as the Beatles and Pink Floyd created music before I was even born. I did not live in the time that they were making music, but I feel a connection to their art. While Chavelle has a hard edge that feeds the more aggressive side of me. Depesche Mode makes me smile with their alien synth sounds, Muse is a larger than life spectacle, Edward Sharp feels soulful and makes me think of summer. Cake is driving music. The great film composers bring a whole range of emotions in their work. George Winston makes me think of my mom. It is all arbitrary really. I could not listen to George Winston at a club, and I could not think of Chavelle when I wanted to relax. None of these artists is truly "authentic" they borrow from others. They do not qualify for every situation in life. They make the music they want to make and they do a good job.
I have myself pretty much figured out, what I am interested in is what others think. I am always surprised to hear people defend their favorite artists. Often, they have a completely different notion of the artist than I have come up with on my own. You can see it in a person's eyes when they talk about their favorite music. They get a far away look in their eyes - that song has illuminated their life in some way.
An assignment I would be interested in assigning is one similar to one I had done in 8th grade.
The students would be required to investigate a theme (war, friendship, love, money et.c) through music. The songs they pick would become their authentic research on a given topic for a visual arts piece. After picking and listening to their music, the students would be required to write a one page paper discussion the investigation of their theme. How does the music encapsulate the theme? What is the artist trying to say in their work? How do you feel when listening to these songs? What, if any, visual ideas are expressed in the songs? The listening and writing will inform the students in a visual arts piece they themselves will create.