Monday, February 06, 2012

OUTSIDER MUSIC : ART OR EXPLOITATION?

I received an interesting comment on the John North Wright post, and, as it is not the first such comment we've received here, I thought I'd not just let it hide as a post comment, but turn it into a post of it's own, as I believe the commenter probably speaks for many, and I'm sure some of you would like to chime in as well.

radioman said: "I can see the appeal of this kind of stuff, yet, at the same time, it feels almost as if one is back in the 1700s, laughing at the inmates in the asylum. In some respects, that guilty feeling is ameliorated by knowing that, since he's dead, he isn't aware that we're poking sticks though the bars of his cage.

Keep up the good work. Sort of."

I responded: "Hi radioman, I understand your ambivalence towards this kind of outsider music, but I, and plenty of other readers of this blog, really, genuinely appreciate the honest nature of this kind of music - it challenges the idea that "real" music (music suitable for review/criticism) is only made by professionals who are often only interested in making it in showbiz, becoming stars, glorifying their egos, etc. As opposed to the likes of Wright who appear to have more pure motives. As Lee Ashcroft wrote in the Bernie Sizzey post, they make music because they HAVE to.

Sure, there may be a freak-show aspect, but it's deeper than that - I find it fascinating to peak into the brains of those who are otherwise invisible to our homogenous culture. Also: These people have often been lonely and alienated throughout their lives, and it means a lot to them to have people finally listening to them.

Hearing someone come from out of left field and approach music from a completely fresh, unaffected perspective can be a delight, in contrast to the predictability of "normal" music, even in the so-called alternative world. There's no denying that it can be a little disturbing at times, but it can also humanize the kind of people we might otherwise turn away from.

That's a lot to chew on, ultimately making it all a lot more rewarding than tossing another coin into Lady Gaga's bank account."

Thanks to radioman for forcing me to sit down and spell out the philosophy of this here web-log!

5 comments:

Dylanthulhu said...

It depends on how the artist feels about it. Wesley Willis definitely couldn't have cared any less.

Mr Fab said...

If Willis (and his ilk) are getting paid and treated fairly, then that's quite a step up from being an asylum inmate.

Steve said...

Your opinion, Mr Fab, crystalizes exactly my reasons for searching out and listening to outsider music. I respect The Shaggs the same way I do anyone else who makes exceptional art. There are so many different kinds of music offered up with sincerity by so many different kinds of people that I'm happy to give as many of them my ear as I can while I'm alive. Some of them are outsider musicians.

Nobody should assume that all outsider music is the same. I don't enjoy all outsider music equally. I'll probably never like to listen to Jandik as much as I do Shooby Taylor, but they're both proudly represented in my music collection.

I've heard outsider artists described as people who clearly don't have the talent expected of mainstream artists, but who create music anyway and are honest (i.e. not merely ironic or sarcastic) in their endeavors. I believe it may be the only musical genre that is based on the extrinsic assessment of an artist's abilities and their sincerity rather than his or her product. Also uniquely, It can never be bestowed by the author to their own work. Since we grant this honorific only if we have to struggle a bit to allow into our definition of "acceptable" it's the only frontier of music that by its very definition consistently challenges us to rethink our understanding of the sonic arts.

And that is why I love outsider music.

Anonymous said...

The worst kind of (recorded) music is boring. I'm thinking of corporate rock, say, a group like ASIA. Every flavor steamed, boiled, and diluted out of committee perfection. I remember the "music" for maybe two months and resist the urge to locate a copy. Any interest fades away, gone, forgotten, except for the shadow.

I hear and admire, enjoy the inspiration. Tiny Tim wasn't a freak (the bad kind), he was a guy channeling something so far in the past that no one recognized it. He had something to say, and I want to hear that. There's so many boring (as in uninspired) by-the-numbers recordings, and what they have in common is trying to give the audience what the singer/producer thinks they want to hear (again and again and again) in safest lowest common denomination. No bite, no inspiration.

And then there are the "EUREKA!" moments when you hear Sam Sacks or Amy Beth Parravano for the first time! The live show would be worth the price, a festive occasion. --Windbag

Anonymous said...

outsider art being done today isn't recognizable as art ,,,looks more like the green color script from the matrix