Aristotle's point that all art imitates and that imitation is a natural human need, that we are driven to imitate, is well taken. From my own perspective, I believe that music is a language and that one must learn to read and speak that language. The only way to learn the syntax of the language is to copy the greats that have come before you. You imitate their musical style, sound and even their artistic aesthetic and voice. Who can say that they haven't tried to sing a Beatles song with a British accent? When I first became captivated with jazz it was all I could do to bring forth a very rough and imperfect imitation of Miles or Trane. Fifteen years later I have still not risen to their level of mastery, but I do at least speak the same language fluently! More importantly, I have developed my own voice with unique nuance so that my art is compelling and worth absorbing.
However, whereas Aristotle takes in to account the here and now, understanding that one's body, mind and soul are all part of the human experience and therefore necessary to acknowledge for art to have meaning, I still think he might have taken a little more from his master. Plato's cave allegory is also very relevant to our artistic expression as our thoughts are where the art is perfectly conceived and rarely can we bring that perfection into the material world for others to ponder and explore in our art no matter how long we dedicate ourselves to the mastery of our craft.
So, it becomes truly imperative that we recognize both Plato's and Aristotle's teachings! Together they represent the more complete concept of being an artist and we as artists must give ourselves grace to understand that while perfection should be striven for, it is never really in our grasp, so we do our best and let the art speak as it will.
Aristotle's thoughts on tragedy being of more artistic use than comedy is something I don't agree with fully. While the point of a human person rising above their circumstance, trying to do the right thing and often failing is understandable as a lesson in the human condition, comedy also shows us how to be human and provides us with the opportunity to stay sane while trying to exist. For my own part, while my music ranges far and wide over a variety of topics, I have found that humor can tell a story, even a sad one and provide hope and insight in a way that pure tragedy just can't. Yes, the flawed human that aspires to be more than they are through the forge of tragedy is compelling (i.e. the Messianic struggles of Christ, Paul Atraides or even Harry Potter) we can be taught a different lesson from the same book when looking at the adventures of Mr. Bean, Sheldon Cooper and Winnie The Pooh.
Regarding my own work and providing a cathartic experience for the listener, a great example is one of my earliest recordings titled "Hate You". I was a young man about 22 years old. I had fallen in love for the first time and being young with little experience of dating thought this person was the first and last person I would love! She actually pursued me, which was good as I was still figuring out how to fit in as a blind person in the dating arena. My story is long and complicated but I had a brain tumor as a child and the tumor left me totally blind along with a host of other health problems. I almost died several times, which is not an easy burden at any age. I also was a bright child and graduated at the age of 14 from high school. While I have never met a stranger, I did have some minor social interaction problems at this time because my class mates were 18 and I was 14. I didn't go to my school prom, though I am happy to report that I have more than made up for itJ At any rate, being blind it was difficult for me to understand how I stacked up against my competition for the attention of females in the universe of dating. Was I as attractive as others? I couldn't judge for myself and much as I love my mom and dad, they are biased, so that wasn't helpful! I had gone on a few dates, starting to date around the age of 19 but, nothing ever really took. Then boom, this young lady chased me and I was hooked. Keep in mind that I had just recently had a major epiphany and learned a universal truth. That truth? Simply that we are what we believe ourselves to be. Meaning, If I think I am attractive then I am. That doesn't mean that I don't need to lose some weight, comb my hair and take a bath—those things are still true—but people take cues from all the subtext we broadcast everyday about ourselves from how we look to how we stand to the words we choose to use and process all that without thought to form an opinion about who we are and how attractive we are. So, imagine my total heartbreak when after 6 months of dating, this young lady told me she just didn't want to date a blind person. She was afraid that she would end up being a nurse, or mother, and her life would be just taking care of my needs. Never mind that I am very independent and didn't need those things from her. She was, as she bluntly told me, embarrassed to be seen to date me and therefore after 6 months I still hadn't met any of her friends.
And with that, she was gone!
I was devastated and wrote a song about it that ended up on my first album. I still love to play this song and my band mates have always loved playing the song because it really does provide a profound sense of catharsis!
It somewhat melodramatically, I admit, brings out all my frustration, confusion and true pain of loss and after the song is over, it is like a weight is lifted from my heart and mind. It is an angry song and so it should be! The primus of the break up was frankly insulting and ridiculous. However, in retrospect, we were both young and hadn't lived enough to understand our places in the universe, so while her actions were wrong, I have long sense forgiven her and I am happy to report, just in case you are wondering, that I have found out what love really is back in 2003 when I met my sweet wife to whom I will have been married to 15 years this coming June. My song has been art that has provided catharsis to my fans as it is a simple theme to which almost anyone can relate.
One last point here. My mom sat me down after this had happened and told me that hate was never the correct path. That hate only hurts the person that hates. She is right, even at 22 I knew that. However, using lyrics as unwieldy as "I don't like you very much at this moment in time" just didn't work with the groove so "hate you" it is. :)