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Making Art Is An Act of Defiance

In a free market producers respond to the variables of supply and demand. When demand for a product goes up, the price goes up as well, and signals other producers to begin making the same items. When demand goes down, the price goes down and signals producers to stop making these items.

While art is not immune to these forces, it is also not completely controlled by them either. Imagine all the music, writing, and art that would not exist if we depended solely on the free market to dictate what we produce. Among others, none of my music should exist since there is virtually no demand for it, even at the price of free.

But, that is precisely the point about art in general and the way I view my music in particular. I create my music in spite of market forces not because of them. The complete indifference with which my music is received does not tell me to stop making it. Art is not about giving the people what they want at the price they want to pay.

Art is about responding to the inner need to create something. Each artist, in their specific medium, communicates something deeply meaningful and personal and the value of this is, or should be, independent of the marketplace.

Parents and educators often advise students to think in practical terms when considering a school, college major, or career. I was advised to do just this and told that my music would not be wise to pursue. I certainly couldn’t make a living at it.

But, life is not just about making a living.

As Henry David Thoreau wrote in Life Without Principle: “If I should sell both my forenoons and afternoons to society, as most appear to do, I am sure that for me there would be nothing left worth living for. I trust that I shall never thus sell my birthright for a mess of pottage. I wish to suggest that a man may be very industrious, and yet not spend his time well. There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living.”

Yes, I would love people to listen to my music. Even better if they would purchase it and support my efforts. But, that they do not allows me to do something perhaps even more important with my music. It allows me to assert my humanity in the face of a world which would just as soon have me give up and go away.

What do you think?

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Written by Ngoc Tran

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