Finding the Center

In national politics, there’s been a lot of talk lately about finding the center.

It used to be said that all politics were local. The same was largely true of culture and music.

Today, some say that all politics, culture and music are global.

But it seems to me that in the early 21st century our challenge is to somehow embrace both the global and the local at once.

Now that the whole world of music is available instantly at our fingertips, the world is one big, noisy Musicircus that never ends. Everything is happening everywhere, all the time.

What does all this mean for those of us who dedicate our lives to making new music?

In a very real sense maybe there is no center of American music. Better yet, maybe there’s nothing but center. Maybe wherever you are—listening, composing, performing, writing and talking about it—is the center of American music.

In the past, when people in the West spoke of “the Mainstream”, they meant a certain canon of European art, literature and music. But that canon is now a thing of the past. If there is a cultural mainstream today, it may lie in the products of the commercial entertainment industry.

Even in non-commercial music—from minimalism to post-minimalism, neo-romanticism to post-modernism—authentic creative impulses and original voices are trivialized and popularized as “style”.

As working artists, how do we confront this cultural megalith?

Diversity is strength. This is a fundamental principle of biology and of culture.

At the foundation of my own life’s work is a strong conviction that the work of local culture is a vital and essential countercurrent to global commercial monoculture.

In a world dominated by Disney, Time-Warner and a handful of other global corporations, it may well be that one of the most radical acts that artists can perform today is simply to stay at home and do our work.

What do you think?