About a century ago, the idea of art for artâ€™s sake was a hot debate. Here and now in the US, it seems that music and art have to have some kind of purpose. Any grant application is required to address the â€˜communityâ€™ issue. Should music serve the community beyond various levels of entertainment-enlightainment? Does a piece have to have an actual subject matter that addresses community issues? Or involve participants that are meaningful to a community?
In the days of Bach, a piece was commissioned by the church or the aristocracy for the purpose of worship or celebration. It did have a built-in social purpose. Romanticism focused on the individual, and brought about a change of purpose: in fact, a piece would stand on its own as a means of expression for the composer. In the 20th century in the US, music has been a factor of social evolution. As African American music gradually dominated popular music, racial integration took place, and as White kids listened to the blues, rock music was born. For a while, it served as a factor of liberation, although not womenâ€™sâ€¦ I remember the days of all-girl bands â€“ a necessity when the guys wouldnâ€™t let us play the guitars with them. Unfortunately, those same rock tunes that spelled revolution are now aired as background to television commercials – time has eroded their edge.
To charge a music event with definite community content promotes timidity and leans towards hackneyed formulas. Arenâ€™t artists doing enough for the community by pioneering iffy neighborhoods and turning them into valued real estate, only to be kicked out a few years later? Isnâ€™t that enough community service? Canâ€™t we have a little leeway here, when it comes to content?