Friday, 26 April 2013

Unintended Consequences

You never know what will happen.

Once a piece of art is out on the public, anything could happen.  People might love it, hate it, or ignore it.  It might cause excitement, ridicule, opprobrium, or nothing.
There were riots at the premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s opera ‘Rite Of Spring’ in 1913.
On the other hand, I wrote a poem about that, and people mostly didn’t care even a little bit.
And once art is in the public realm, it no longer belongs to the artist:
My albums have still got my name on, but if a person believes a song is about them, who am I to argue? It means different things to different people, and the connections are often surprising.
I’ve been taken to task by people who have (I think) misunderstood the meaning of certain songs, but I prefer not to say they’re wrong and I’m right.
I’ve also been asked a lot about specific lyrics, and whether they are flippant or sincere, literal or metaphorical, but I prefer not to spell it out for anyone.  Like this.
And anyway, I’m not always sure of my intention: Exhibit A

Particularly in an age where any information can be easily disseminated beyond borders and narrow groups, “audience” is far harder to define. 
I am by no means well known outside of my hometown, but I’ve sold albums to several countries around the world, and to people not fluent in English.
I reckon this makes it all the more attractive for lyricists (and artist of any kind) to tend toward the lowest common denominator for fear of being misunderstood.

Ian McKaye on his Minor Threat song, ‘Guilty Of Being White’:
"To me, at the time and now, it seemed clear it's an anti-racist song. Of course, it didn't occur to me at the time I wrote it that anybody outside of my twenty or thirty friends who I was singing to would ever have to actually ponder the lyrics or even consider them." (Wikipedia)

Should Jesus of Nazareth have worried about people mis-representing him 2000 years after his death?
Could Nietschze have predicted the rise of the Nazis?
Could The Smiths have known that they would have spawned thousands of cheap Indie-pop imitations, like Tommy Hilfinger boxer shorts on a market stall?
Not likely, and if they were worried about those kinds of things, they probably wouldn’t have created all that great music.
Unintended consequences: 
We can’t blame Coldplay on Radiohead,
Just like we can’t blame Pink Floyd for Yes.
(That rhymes, and you know it does.  Admit it.)

“Shine your light for the world to see”
Mos Def 
(See also Luke 11:33
Or this.)

All this has given me a great song title:
I Like The Housemartins (But I Can’t Stand The Beautiful South)

Publish and be damned.

Clayton Blizzard

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