Sunday, September 01, 2013

The Engaged Musician, by Sam Richards: A Manifesto

The Engaged Musician
Manifesto of Engaged Music

1 Music is a way of conceiving of the world sonically.
2 Engaged music is music as praxis – action and reflection – in which the action is sonic. Any kind of musical action can engage in this way. There are no preferred sectional interests, whether scored/improvised/assembled; philharmonic or vernacular; specialist or participatory; local or global; new technologies or acoustic instruments. In this respect it is doctrinally non-doctrinal and happily thrives on the obvious paradox.
3 Engaged music insists on sonic equal rights, and thus enacts a classless society. It accepts, enters and opens. All sounds are embraced.
4 Engaged music is on the side of the oppressed, whatever form that oppression takes, overt, covert or systemic. It stands for freedom from oppression. Oppression is the prolonged exercise of authority and power in an unjust way. It engenders the state of being burdened and powerless. It is a form of cruelty and tacit, implied or open violence. It causes distress and anger. Engaged music always has a commitment to solidarity and liberation somewhere on its agenda. It is not a political programme. It is an ethical stance, but it emerges from political and social awareness.
5 Engaged music today is interested in the history of sound, but is also post-traditional. It has histories of its own and insists on them.
6 Engaged music likes to live in its own time rather than escaping from it. Today’s engaged music accepts the nature of our own times as a state of permanent catastrophe.
7 Engaged music is relatively uninterested in distinctions between high or low art. It believes in positive and genuine empowerment at all levels.
8 Engaged music believes in minorities but does not ignore or denigrate the majority.
9 Engaged music today maintains a healthy suspicion of funding, commerce and academia.
10 Engaged music embraces the unknown and the unpredictable. It aspires to creative acts of origination. It likes unanswered questions more than unquestioned answers.

This is it. This is my manifesto of engaged music. For a long time while working on this book I placed it at the end. I thought that the arguments in the book could lead up to it, and then be topped off by it as a logical conclusion. It could still work that way. But on consideration it seems more important that it stands up and delivers itself at the outset so that the rest of the book discusses it, provides illustrations, and puts depth into it, rather than delaying it and working towards it. It’s a manifesto, after all.

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