Almost Dionysian Almost Free

Penny Lane, played by Kate Hudson

Rockers get to be Dionysian. It’s their thing. No one expects them to add the Apollonian, though they must to create music objects, or create as individual artists. They must. But the Dionysian is what their fans want, see, expect — in concerts, at least. Do they expect the same things when they sit at home, alone, listening to records of the same singer, the same band?

Right now, as of 2009, it is probably true that musicians can combine the Dionysian and the Apollonian better than any other kind of artist. Chaos, trance, inebriation, intoxication of one or more forms, group celebration and loss of the self, the dying of the self in that group celebration and swooning fall out. The lone guitar hero, fighting the system, standing outside the system, forever. Making his or her own name against the odds. Creative destruction on stage, in hotels, on the road. Create and destroy. Love, burn down, inflame, burn out.

Some poets, in ages past, wanted what Rockers have. Rimbaud preached the derangement of all senses, and he would have been doing so on a stage in front of tens of thousands in our time. Creating musical bacchanals, flipping off the crowds and the record execs, while he laughed and snarled. It might have saved him from the gun-running and the loss of his muse. Another Morrison, Hendrix or Jagger, but one with true linguistic genius.

Of course, those who know the history of Classical Music might object to the singling out of Rock Stars. In their own day, the geniuses of the Classical Era had their legions of fans, their swooning groupies, too. Women threw themselves at Mozart’s feet, among others. Perhaps it’s just music. Perhaps nothing transports us more, or gets inside our emotions so quickly, lifts us up and throws us down. The other forms take more time, in general. Reflection, contemplation, repeated viewing, reading, seeing.

Music. It cuts right through our defenses, our shields. Even our layered civilizing forces. Which is why the Establishment has always feared it. Those who want to control us and shackle us and stifle our own creative and primal impulses/spirits — because, yes, YES, to create is primal! Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that “the authorities” cut off Elvis at the waist. Thinking that would stop it. Thinking that would hold back the cultural forces so many Rockers had begun to unleash . . .

Sadly, some parts of the Establishment learned all too well how to control those forces. Co-opt them. Sign the Rockers up to fat contracts and try to herd them into pens as much as possible. Keep them on reservations. Bring them out on special occasions, like the finale of American Idol.

Always that battle between the primal, the exuberant, the youthful, the creative, the wildly unique . . . and the norm. The Establishment. The “way things are.” Which means, worshiping at the altar of the Business Model. The business establishment learned how to herd their new sheep, but they’ll never learn how to bring out the genius inside those pens. Genius can’t be bought and remain genius. All too often it repeats what the masses thought they wanted. Repeats it and repeats it, dries up, dies.

It’s not as simple an equation or dynamic as:

Every generation needs to recreate the First Moment, the First Yeah!

But it’s close. Trouble is, we’ve been caught up for too long in the Business Model. More than a generation, and it’s killing us. It’s killing art. Commodification, accepted, taken for granted, internalized.

Which new generation will break free? Where are the new heroes of vigorous, proud, joyfully unique voices and views? Who will leave the reservation of the commodity, the marketing ploy, the trained seal?

Russell, in Almost Famous, drunken, on Acid, as inarticulate as he was when sober, stumbles into a gesture on the right path . . .




Almost Dionysian Almost Free
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