When it comes down to it art acts as a surrogate parent for so many. Those who have been hurt, lost a parent, gone through great emotional trauma, etc. are usually those drawn toward art and its power. It’s a perfect combination.
Bono captures the moment perfectly in his song “the Miracle of Joey Ramone.” As a young, lost boy at a concert for the first time something happened. “Everything I ever lost now has been returned in the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard.”
Something about that music “made some sense out of the world.” It translated his pain into artistic freedom and fuel. He stumbled upon the power of music. And wow, would the world be changed forever because of the discovery.
What is it about art that has such power to identify with and articulate our suffering? I suppose in many ways it’s like a journal entry to the masses (on the lyric side) but even in the abstract stuff (the music) there is communication happening.
In art we are able to translate in notes and colors the deep emotions that often words can only begin to scale. God has given us an infinite scale from which to draw from. There are endless options to how we might express our pain.
The artist is strangely aware (usually early on) of a certain medium that lights up his world. It generally starts with an innate ability, but also a deep intuition to actually enjoy others doing that medium well. Something clicks and just makes sense.
As we become more aware of “the most beautiful sound” for us, everything else dims. This thing and its ability to capture our attention and our desire to communicate take over. We can easily get consumed. Something deep inside breaks open.
It reminds us when Samuel tells Saul (after getting the Spirit) “do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you” (1 Sam 10.7). St. Augustine said “love God, do what you want.” It’s really that simple. The call dictates direction in wants.
From there it is simply about connecting artist with audience. In its newest tour U2 makes a great point of this. Being as big as they are, they have made every effort to break the barriers separating the audience from the artists.
In the most recent tour they are siloed between two enormous scrims, projection mapped in huge form on them to the audience. They appear as far off giants. Then, in a revelatory moment, the lights turn on and they are right there in the audience.
All while singing the refrain, “There is no them, there is no them, there’s only us.” They are making the case that artist and audience are one. Let nothing get in the way of that connection. Something powerful is happening. That’s what it’s about.
If the artist can see himself as the servant of his audience, something powerful changes. He moves from performer to care-taker. The purpose of music is celebrated and expounded, not reduced to CD sales. A relationship is born.