Around this season eight years ago, as I was leaving an open mic, my car radio blasted out some political talk show. Some voice or another was giving its opinion that we were doomed in one election scenario and another voice was announcing its idea that we were doomed in the other case.
This uninvited expression of negativity into an evening I had spent playing and listening to music rattled me. It made me feel trivial and unimportant. Here were these angry people talking about big issues and I’d spent the evening in a bar. It also made me into a reactionary: I felt myself tense with the reply I would express to those disembodied voices.
It’s possible you have felt some or all of these emotions this week as the presidential campaign comes to an angst-filled conclusion. We play music. We make an art that can’t be held in anyone’s hands or hung on a wall. It’s temporal and temporary. And often, it is incapable of expressing our own multitudes. We choose the subjects for our songs that make good songs. We limit our words and notes about those subjects. We constrain ourselves.
I would venture to say that all artists are empowered and frustrated by the act of expression. We have so much to say and recognize that saying it all makes for bad art. So we edit and embellish appropriately. Sometimes, we can’t find an artistic way to approach what we want to say so we remain silent. It’s easy to feel unimportant, unheard, and misunderstood in times of great social importance.
So I have this short word of encouragement: just playing music is important.
After I turned off the radio that night, I thought about my reaction to the angry voices on the radio and my view of myself in response to them. I arrived at this conclusion: playing music is an act of peace. It is a moral thing to do. I don’t harm anyone with the choices I make playing music. That comforts me.
I hope it comforts you too.
Politics is important. Engagement in your community is important. But this doesn’t mean that spending the evening in a bar playing music (or just listening) is immoral or unimportant. Often, spreading art and peace is the most important act you can do.
Even when your music centers on dissonance, anger, or aggression, it is inherently an act of peace. Choosing to express yourself through music is a positive social act.
I know I’m going to be on pins and needles next Tuesday as the results are announced. I am an anxious person by nature and I feel like I don’t understand and have no input on important events that impact me. But I play music. I spend a portion every day spreading peace and not hurting anyone. I wish politicians could do the same.