DJing as an Art Form (Part 2)

(Click here to check out Part 1 of this article.)

Why do we create art?

Ask any artist this, and they will probably say something like “ it’s my passion”, or “because I couldn’t do anything else”.  Many people love creating art for its own sake… they love creating something which can stand on its own as being aesthetically pleasing.  This could be the painter that has never shown her work, or the pianist who may have no desire for an audience.  Perhaps it gives us a sense of of personal pride or self-worth when we are able to make something out of nothing (or to make something out of something else).

Expression and acknowledgement are also valid reasons for creating or performing art.  Some people feel that they have something to say or share with others, and can do it in a much more personal or expressive way if they share it by means of a painting, musical production, poetry, sculpture, or indie film.  This connection with an audience can be very powerful.  It feels good to know that you’ve tried to convey a feeling or concept, and that someone on the receiving end “gets it”.  As it turns out, this is the part I enjoy most about DJing.  My happiest gigs are the ones where I feel like I’m able to really convey a particular feeling or supply a very moody atmosphere, and I’m able to tell that the audience understands and appreciates it.  I don’t take gigs where I feel like there is little chance of that happening, because it’s not what I’m in this for.

That’s not to say that I have any problem with DJs who perform for other reasons… like money.  I happen to not have money as my primary motive, but I have no reason to think that one shouldn’t.  But if I really wanted to make money, I would take on a lot more gigs.  I would play more popular music at more accessible spots, or I would start focusing on things like weddings.  Many people make decent livings doing this, and if they are good at it, kudos to them!  And, there is just as much of an art to being good at the more “functional” aspects of the DJ spectrum.

Another reason that people are artists is because they are able to use their craft to provide or develop solutions.  This is mainly where the realm of applied arts comes in.  The graphic designer uses art to fill a particular need.  So does the architect, the confectioner, the fashion designer.

The Art of Evolution vs. The Evolution of Art

A lot of people will reject something as an art form due to developments in technology, impact of social trends, more efficient methodologies, or differing approaches.  We saw this quite a bit in the early days of sampling.  People complained (and sometimes still do) that sampling other people’s work was stealing, cheating, and not art.  Is it just me, or are some of the biggest defenders of the sampling technique the same people that disregard DJing as being a big joke?  Anybody who is still stuck thinking that you can’t create works of art by means of sampling should listen to some Jean Michel Jarre tracks, such as his Oxygene album from the early 80s.  If that doesn’t work, you may want to completely disregard most hip-hop.  Or quite a bit of modern pop.  Or pretty much all of drum-n-bass.  Ambient, chillout, trip-hop and new age music too.

What about collage?  Collage and mosaic draw a heavy parallel to DJing in that they made from an assemblage of previously-created works to make something new.  How far back to the fundamentals do you have to go for your starting point in order to be considered a legitimate artist?  Does the modern artist have to ditch Photoshop, simply because a lot of people have it?  Should they get rid of stencils and rulers?  How about the easel?  Seems like cheating to me.  Ditch the paintbrush, too.  Pick some berries, smash them in a bucket with your feet, and smear it on a cave wall… then I’ll accept your art as being legitimate.  Everyone else is just a poser.

Just as it’s easy for pretty much anyone to take a reasonably good picture, it’s easy for pretty much anyone to both create music and play it for an audience.  As such, the craft seems as if it has gotten watered-down to some people.  I say this is an unfair assessment; the availability of something says nothing about the legitimacy of that thing, nor does it say anything about the quality of any individual piece of artwork.

If there’s one thing I can say, regardless of what your passion is, it is this: do it with conviction, heart, and purpose… and you will be good at it, regardless of how low the price of entry is!