Many Americans, not to mention the millions around the world, watched last night's VMA performance by Miley Cyrus and were shocked. People were confused, upset, disappointed and angry that the sweet, innocent "Hannah Montana" star had suddenly become a raunchy, drug taking, sex pistol. Her performance may just be one of the most glaring wake up calls the American people have ever had and may prove to be more significant than 9/11.
Terrorists kill people and that is definitely something to be alarmed about but what should be even more alarming are the factors which influence culture. I have long coined the motto "Artists Run This Planet" because I truly believe artists (creators, inventors, dreamers) are the people that most influence culture because they set a path towards the future by creating ideals worth working towards. However, like any artist knows, there are enemies of creativity, sometimes twisting art for their own ends, those that would have the world canvas-less, colorless with no more art than a barcode.
What happened last night at the VMAs was nothing new for the music industry. When I say music industry I don't mean the millions of musicians across the world. No, I mean the music industry: the businessmen making money from musicians. Some people think the music industry changed because of the internet. It did, but it also changed in another significant way back in 1996 with the passage of the Telecommunications Act which broke down limitations of how many radio stations someone could own and through a wildfire quickness of take overs and buy outs the radio stations in America became a monopoly. There is a reason you only hear a handful of artists on any given station and why their songs are played over other artists. It's not because of their talent. It's because they were picked.
Any message, whether it's true or not, if it is repeated enough times, will be accepted. Music and television programming is not a blind man throwing darts and hoping for the bullseye of people becoming fans. Instead, it's more like making the audience blind and throwing the darts at them instead. We've been hit with so much degraded content that the culture has definitely shifted. Over time Miley Cyrus' performance may prove to be a welcomed event. Why? Look at how many people were turned off by her. It was as if the whole country said, "Enough!" People are not docile lab rats or hamsters that are supposed to run around in endless circles. We are lovers of life and we want to experience elevation, not degradation. We want to feel inspired when we look to our artists, not be repulsed by them.
Hopefully this event is a milestone and people finally decide that enough is enough and demand more from the music industry, radio stations, MTV and all the rest. In fact, we should be so outraged that we write letters to President Obama about this because any war he is fighting with guns in foreign lands is no where near as important as the war that needs to be fought to ensure we have an inspiring and uplifting culture, in America and across the world. Artists wage this war each day and there are some casualties like Miley, but we have to push through and do even more. Maybe I'm a dreamer but I sure as hell know I'm not the only one.
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Arcane Insignia at Lit Lounge
After hearing Arcane Insignia, and especially after watching videos of their performances, I decided I had to experience a live performance of their sweepingly surreal music. With a couple friends I ventured into the Village and we made our way into the Lit Lounge on a Wednesday night. The place was alive with an energy that you can only find in New York City. People were at the bar, lost in the music as well as their own conversations and surprisingly an art exhibit bounced with activity at the back of the place. We made our way down some old stone steps as if gaining admittance to some old speakeasy and found ourselves in a dimly lit, long room with huge speakers and microphones at one end and bench seats built into the walls. Before a single note was played I knew I had walked into something exciting.
James Alexander and Antoinette Ady are two remarkable musicians. The coupling of guitar and violin completely engaged me from the start. Their sound grabs you and doesn’t let you go, as if moving you around the room and transporting you to magical places. The songs were passionate, emotionally charged stories that James Alexander’s vocals do an excellent job of communicating. He sucks you into his intimate world and then carries you up and down like a wild rollercoaster. Antoinette Ady’s music shines through with her strength and commanding power of her violin strings. Her playing is comparable to romantic and epic tales of centuries past yet somehow carry with them the flavor of modern genres.
Strings are the weapons of choice for this powerful duo and their harmony together is what is liberatingly fresh and brand new. James Alexander strums his guitar with a powerful, aggressive force that turns his instrument at times into almost a sort of drum or bass and his voice carries over his hard hitting playing so one is left with the feeling of being in his grip. While, at the same time Antoinette Ady’s strings weave in and out, creating layers of insightful, soothing and beautiful echoes that put one at ease. It is interesting and surprising to discover that the music overall captures the very essence of communication between man and woman. Alexander with his power and force delivers a very male perspective to the sound, while Ady with her smooth, beautiful tapestry of playing gives us the female counterpart to their musical conversation. This is not to suggest there is romantic love in these songs, instead they rise above that to reach a more basic level of communication. In doing that the music becomes romantic but also becomes anything you want it to be because the two styles are there for you to grab hold of and play in.
It is easy to get lost in this music because Arcane Insignia does an amazing job creating and shaping a musical landscape that is rich, alluring and makes you want to explore. If you’ve ever wanted to have songs really move you so you felt it in your chest and wanted to experience something musically unforgettable, then you have found your magic carpet to ride. Don’t be afraid of heights, Arcane Insignia won’t let you down.
I'm David Carus. From overcoming one of the most dangerous cities in the country and graduating from one of the most prestigious colleges in America to leading an educational movement as a teacher and running for Congress at the age of 25, I decided the best hope our world has is through art.