Existence in a System

A struggle of being an artist or any innovative type is the ability to express yourself while being able to exist in a given system. Existence could be defined as keeping your job, paying your bills (can I eat food and live indoors {s/o to Lance LaDuke}), being in the economy or market as a whole (who’s going to buy my stuff, do people want my stuff in 3 years), or the world (is my stuff accessible or useful enough for people to enjoy it?).

The Beatles are one of my favorite examples of this phenomenon. The band started out as a cover band, catching the ears of listeners with the familiarity of the material, eventually incorporating more of their original tunes. They then wrote happy go lucky songs about love and having fun, things that are easily relatable. New songs began appearing that had a more dark mood (“I’m a Loser”); great example of this is the song “Help“.

The lyrical content is actually very depressing, but it is underscored by happy pop instrumentals. Here’s the original demo.

Can you imagine if that was the final version on the album? I think the group would have seen question marks from fans and critics alike if they made such a sharp turn artistically that early in their career. From there we see a continued transition into the more creative and reflective side of The Beatles; coming to fruition through the musical exploration of their songwriting, or from the freedom of being released from any mold, genre, or expectation due to their unprecedented success.

This fine line of innovation and tradition is essential when navigating life’s windy path. Study the masters, fit in with what is going on, do not alienate your audience or peers. But at the same time- become something new, make your mark on the field, and continue to push the limits.

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