We are in the midst of artistic Loudness Wars. In my first draft of this column, I thought of bringing up Allen Ginsberg and Rupi Kaur and Marcel Duchamps and Andy Warhol and Andres Serrano and all the usual suspects, but frankly, it’s all so tiresome. No sirrah! I shall not bloviate on the usual suspects, the decrepits in spirit, the spiritual miscreants who pursue volume over content, who prefer to stimulate any and all parts of a man, so long as they are stimulating something and stimulating more than the next man, who they are trying to screech over, for they know that the loudest among them shall be enshrined in the “artistic” pantheon.
It is tempting to exhort one another to live in the quiet spaces, as the opposite of loudness must needs be quietness. For when one forgoes compression does the music not get quieter? Yet who more than I loves a good bit of bombast! Who more than I loves a dose of romantic loudness, of climax and ecstasy, and a good death in tragedy? Those over at The Imaginative Conservative already do a good job of exhorting quietness, borderline hermitage, in their seeking of stillness. Where we have one such, we’ve no need of another. No, let us be loud here. St. Bernard raised both monks and militants. We have our monks; where are the militants of our Muse?
It has been commented by many among us, but all too few all the same, that we live in the Age of Chaos, or of Kali, or of Iron, or whatsoever mythological resonance you hear between our age and the ideas of antiquity. Nevertheless, we do live in such an age, and I find that it is beneficial, perhaps, not to dwell too deeply on this, lest one fall into despair, but to examine our own aims in the light (or lack thereof) which this time provides.
This is a column about Art, and what we humble Artists are to understand as our role in the world, as well as how our desires play into our ability to take upon ourselves that role. Artists wish to be relevant. We wish for an audience. We desire respect. Above all we desire affirmation of our talent. The lack of these things can twist artists to perversion. And in this age of benighted equality, which was made by the breaking of all quality, how may we now find acclaim, except by being the loudest, and drawing the most attention? How may we gain fame, except by being the most stimulating? Who gives a damn what we stimulate, or the effect we have, so long as we have an effect? Let us compress our work into that which is the most easily apprehended, and more easily shared, and perhaps more easily created? Such is the thinking, though not consciously thought, but nevertheless chosen. As Paul Rhoads mentioned earlier, the current state of art is by the choice of the artists. Nobody forced them, though I suspect many incentivized them. Nobody else gave them their acclaim, it was they who decided what “progress” should be. And I say “they” when I ought to say “we”. It was they (we?) who chose rule by volume.
Nevertheless, I affirmed loudness, nigh on exhorted it! How then, may we recapture loudness? Loudness without compression? Loudness by contrast? How then, may we tug deeper upon the heartstrings than those who make it their sole goal to tug them harder than anybody else? I don’t know. Take your pen or your paintbrush or your clickety-clackety keyboard and figure it out.
Above all, we mustn’t forget that Man is the creature who rides the lightning between Heaven and Earth, and lightning is not quiet! When it comes, all the earth quakes with thunder.