Art and music are intrinsically related. The musician is a rebel, and music generates internal rebellions in the listener by confronting him with mirrored images of their deepest feelings, but, what does it really mean to be a rebel?
“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
Rebels and music are married in the collective perception, probably since the beginning of musical history. Musicians have an undeniable rebellious nature that has threatened governments, religions, societies, and countless schoolmasters and parents.
Seems to me like you all were in such a hopped-up hurry to get out of the city that you turned your kids into exactly what you were trying to get away from.
The rebellious spirit of music was probably taken to its peak in the punk genre, where anarchy-everything became the motto and mantra for generations to come. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll modified its persona to appeal to a new aesthetic that misrepresented the nature of rebellion, democratizing, so to speak, because now by having a beer, a joint, an some heavily gelled spikes on your hair, you can call yourself a rebel.
I am an anarchist
If we focus solely on aesthetics, one could sympathize to some extent, but I need to disagree with the perspective of destroying for the sake of destruction itself. That’s far from the aspirations of a rebel. Want to be anti-establishment? Sure, go ahead, but have a reason, and something you’re aiming to achieve, otherwise you’ll be uttering empty criticisms that really don’t help anyone take any steps in any direction.
Only in violent times do we remember, in our bones and our sinews, that hate is not a weapon of rebellion but of cowardice; that no true revolution is achieved through destruction and nihilism; that the only way to change the world is through constructive and life-affirming action.
Rebellion requires action, it may imply a “no,” but it’s never isolated, it’s never an act of stasis, there is always an action involved, saying “yes” to something else. Albert Camus thought deeply on the subject, consider his following quotes, written within a 20 year span.
“What is a rebel? A man who says no, but whose refusal does not imply a renunciation. He is also a man who says yes, from the moment he makes his first gesture of rebellion. […] Rebellion cannot exist without the feeling that, somewhere and somehow, one is right… The rebel … says yes and no simultaneously… In every act of rebellion, the rebel simultaneously experiences a feeling of revulsion at the infringement of his rights and a complete and spontaneous loyalty to certain aspects of himself.”
-- Albert Camus, age 38
“Rebellion, though apparently negative, since it creates nothing, is profoundly positive in that it reveals the part of man which must always be defended.”
-- Albert Camus, age 38
“The affirmation implicit in every act of rebellion is extended to something that transcends the individual in so far as it withdraws him from his supposed solitude and provides him with a reason to act. […] An act of rebellion is not, essentially, an egoistic act. Of course, it can have egoistic motives… The rebel … demands respect for himself, of course, but only in so far as he identifies himself with a natural community. […] When he rebels, a man identifies himself with other men and so surpasses himself, and from this point of view human solidarity is metaphysical.“
-- Albert Camus, age 58
So, musicians are rebels, as we’ve established, but we’ve also established that rebels have a purpose, as the character of Gertrude Stein says in Midnight in Paris (2011): “the artist's job is not to succumb to despair, but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.”
As artists, it is our job to rebel against the establishment in pursuit of a higher purpose that helps us better understand our place in the Universe through our interpretation, a kind of a collection of snapshots of what this human experience is about.
As I try to write this, my kid is talking about superpowers (we watched The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl earlier), he’s six, and his curiosity takes him to wonder what people would do with superpowers. “I would have fun, but I would use my superpowers for good and not for evil,” he said. I think this summarizes beautifully the idea I’ve been trying to arrive at, that the purpose of all ideology needs to be the betterment of our species’ conditions. Destroying is easy, nature destroys over 99% of the species it creates, but in betterment lies virtue, and it’s what rebels historically have aimed at. Not destruction, but construction, improvement, betterment, virtue.
Be a rebel, do something to improve your reality, even if “just” with a few notes and lyrics.
Luis Garza is a professional project manager, and the head of strategic planning at Estratagema Records.