Saturday, June 30, 2007

Music and the Human Psyche

From early childhood, I loved swashbucklers and swashbuckling in all its manifestations. I was drawn to martial arts and fencing accordingly. Whether played by Errol Flynn, Adam Ant or Johnny Depp in the persona of Jack Sparrow, I still find the swashbuckling role eternally engaging.

When I began to explore 'You Tube', I discovered the strength of the grip that music has on the human psyche in general. Every one has a personal soundtrack to his/her own life. We remember special moments partly through the music that we heard at that period in our lives or the music that somehow came to represent the emotions we felt at those moments. 'You Tube', because it represents the personal taste and 'memories' of any one and every one, is a sort of public journal of myriad lives.

It may be the last 'wild frontier' of the internet. On 'You Tube', commercial viability and popularity do not count any more than one individual's determination. One person can upload ten videos of an obscure punk band from the 1980s, making it appear as important as any group that can boast of platinum releases. As it is not MTV, it does not present a 'false picture' of the world of music. It presents an intensely personal view of music and the people who love it.

There is music that is timeless, of course. Apart from that, one can discover a 'new' opera, song or group at any point, 'new' even if the creator or members of the group have been buried for decades or centuries. Songs therefore do not represent the time of their making necessarily but the time at which they resonated in some one's psyche.

When Adam Ant catapulted into the music scene and made himself the quintessential young New Romantic, he represented the perfect swashbuckler. In 'Stand and Deliver', he created more than a catchy song. He created a fabulous music video that evoked all the romanticism of the highwayman as a folk hero. I never expected to see that video again until I found it on 'You Tube'.

'You Tube' is an amazing phenomenon. People, for no reason other than their own love of music or art, take the time and energy to upload videos to the internet. They are not being paid to do it. I believe part of the motivation is the desire to be able to share the innermost heart of oneself to others. There is a little part of us in every song that we love and certainly in those that we carry with us through our entire lives. Even if it is nothing more than nostalgia for the self one was at a certain time in life, it still is part of a personal history if not more than that: a personal myth.

On 'You Tube', one will see the uploaded videos of individuals from every era in living memory: from the 1930s through the present. I think, whatever their true age, many of these individuals come to 'You Tube' seeking a renewal of their own youth, and their favourite music represents themselves at an age when they still believed in an ultimate fulfillment of their dreams. It is difficult to express this in words, but what I see on 'You Tube' often are rather touching monuments to youthful dreams as well as youthful sorrows.

One of the great achievements of any actor or musician surely is to create a vision of themselves that outlasts time. Adam Ant is as much a victim of time as any of us, yet he always will be the dashing swashbuckler who shone brilliantly in the firmament of the New Romantic movement in the 1980s. He has immortalised himself thus, even if his own life and destiny take him elsewhere now.

Here is Adam Ant's 'Stand and Deliver':

'Prince Charming' perhaps was even more popular than 'Stand and Deliver'. The video is very clever and amusing, but the song contains a manifesto for all true eccentrics and individuals. It certainly is a credo for all swashbucklers of any age.

'Don't you ever,
Don't you ever
Lower yourself,
Forgetting all your standards...

Prince Charming
Prince Charming:
Ridicule is nothing to be scared of.'

Adam Ant may not be to every one's taste, but I think the message of Prince Charming is one that should strike to the heart of any one who ever believed in himself or herself but who has be persuaded by 'life' to conform and forget cherished dreams.

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