What Is the Sound of An Artist Taking Action?
In the countdown to the ’04 American presidential election, it feels as if the country is holding its breath.
Already overburdened by the complexity and tragedy of many recent global events, our eyes are turned to the war of rhetoric playing out between two candidates, both of whom claim that they are the only way to keep/get this country on the right track. But the Right lies, they say, and the Left is wishy-washy. We have been advised by all sides not to trust the media, but a 24/7 news cycle has heightened our awareness of the world World – Sudan, Iraq, Chechnya, bullets, bombings, starvation, and worse. Feeling overwhelmed and without recourse, we now face the nightly news with a kind of numbness, tragedy distilled down to the abstract “human cost”—as if it’s a line item on the world’s GNP spreadsheet.
The Dixie Chicks may have been the first musicians with enough fame to catch the cameras of CNN, but artists of all stripes have been compelled to speak to recent events. Perhaps not since the AIDS crisis rocked our community have composers been so collectively galvanized, absorbing the world around them and creating work that reflects that sensitivity.
With that in mind, I sat down with composers and performers making work that directly comments on the issues before us. Their perspectives are much larger than an election or a political party. History tells us they are often our Cassandras, the first to point and shout, “Look here! Wake up! Pay attention!” They do us that service; it is then our responsibility to listen.
- Vijay Iyer: Jazz—History of Resistance
- Haleh Abghari: Creating Space to Speak
- Derek Bermel: Portrait of the Artist as Activist
- Phil Kline: We’re Not Angry Enough