Warning: this blog post might come across as snobbish or elitist. It might enrage or offend.
Edit: This turned into a lengthy and interesting conversation on my LiveJournal.
When I learn about things like Playing for Change, I’m reminded of what art is supposed to be. Writers aren’t supposed to crank out drivel to make a buck. Visual artists shouldn’t slap just any crap on a canvas. Musicians shouldn’t belt out soulless sounds.
I think that’s why “selling out” hurts so much. Art is a gift to the world. Even if it doesn’t suit someone’s personal tastes, it’s still a present. A little treasure that should move people. It should “strike a chord” inside the audience.
By all means artists should be paid for their work. “Feel goods” and “Warm fuzzies” aren’t accepted as currency at the local grocery store. But, I watch some people work their craft and I wonder if they’re cheating themselves and their audience.
Not all art needs to move people to tears. Not all of it needs to initiate a moment of deep reflection. There’s nothing wrong with producing something for the sole purpose of entertaining. It saddens me and cheapens the art world when people produce work solely for the commercial value.
Grandpa Elliot’s voice sends waves of chills down my arms. I listen to him and there’s so much more there than just a talented voice. There’s some unknown, untouchable, unnamable special quality to him. An endearing charm hitchhikes upon his voice and reaches into my heart. If I could, I’d hug him and thank him for the gift he and Playing for Change has given the world.
Playing for Change also reminds us of the power behind art. (Perhaps the power that serves as the impetus for art?) Artists hold within their talents the ability to bring about change. We can speak for peace or war. We can hold a mirror up to the world and ask the audience, “Is this what you really want? No? Then do something about it.”
Some may say that such things are easy when one is a photojournalist covering a famine or a journalist writing a story about the victims of natural disaster. Some may say that I’m a hypocrite for writing this blog post. After all I’m just an erotica writer.
Erotica writers still wield this power. Can we not address social issues in our work? Can we not show the ugly faces of war and oppression? Can we not reveal the joy of love and the fecundity hope? Can we not do work like Coming Together With Pride and produce work for charity? Entertaining for a purpose.
Furthermore, can we do it without preaching?
We all start with the same tools: words, color, sound. Now, what are we doing with it?