Forming Deeper Human Connections – That’s What I’m After

by Jason on December 5, 2010 · 1 comment

in Nick Drake Project, Thoughts

“If good art is to remain good medicine for the human spirit, it must remain firmly rooted in our relationships” – Gerrit Verstraete

Pablo Picasso - The Dance of Youth

Recently on the Nextbop website, editor-in-chief Anthony Dean-Harris wrote a piece called “We Are All In The Music Business Now, Apparently”. In it, he talks about the recent increase in Kickstarter fan-funding campaigns by jazz musicians. He cites this statement from one of my recent blog posts on the subject as one of the catalysts for his piece (yes, I’m referencing a piece that references a piece by me!): “…you have become an active participant in the process…in effect YOU are my record label! How cool is that?!?!?”

Dean-Harris goes on to say:

“[I]t would seem all of us, artists, writers, publicists, and music fan alike, are in this fight together.”

I love this idea, and it got me thinking not only about why I like the fan-funding model but also about what it is I’m after as an artist.

Deeper Human Connections

“I would like, in my arbitrary way, to bring one nearer to the actual human being” – Francis Bacon

All art is a form of communication. We create art, we appreciate art, because of its ability to communicate something from artist to observer. When I’m moved by art it is because I feel like the artist has told me something that is important to him, about himself, about myself, about the world. This kind of communication makes me feel a deeper connection to the artist, to myself and to all of humanity. It is in these moments, whether I’m the performer or the observer, that I feel most human and most connected. And more often than not it is these moments when I feel most at peace.

A few years ago, shortly after I met my wife, I took her to see a tour by the Blue Note All Stars. All of the performers were amazing (Benny Green, James Moody, Diane Reeves, Peter Bernstein were all there), but one particular performance stands out in my memory. This was about a year after Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans, and Terence Blanchard, the great trumpet player from the Big Easy, played two tunes from his Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem For Katrina) CD. It was towards the end of the show, and while I had very much enjoyed everything that came before it, it was these two songs that moved me beyond anything I was prepared for. Terence’s introduction, the songs themselves, his crying trumpet lines all had me reduced to tears by the end. I was at the same time completely devastated by the emotion of it all and completely lifted up. And when I turned to Darrah I could see that she had the exact same experience. In that moment I felt closer to Blanchard, closer to the people of New Orleans, closer to myself and closer to all of humanity. It was also the moment that I fell in love with Darrah.

Now I know that not every musical experience is going to be that profound. But that is what I strive for nonetheless. As artists, we may only reach those heights a few times in our lives. But we continually strive to have that kind of impact.

New Ways of Connecting

“I am constantly preoccupied with how to remove distance so that we can all come closer together, so that we can all begin to sense we are the same, we are one”
– David Hockney

These days, artists have an incredible array of ways to form connections with their fans. The best way for musicians, of course, is still the live show. Nothing can replace the immediacy and power of being in the same room and sharing our music up close and personal. But the internet has allowed us to connect with those who can’t see us live in unprecedented ways. It has allowed me to form wonderful connections with people in Iceland, Germany, Australia, Canada and all around the world. Even five years ago it would have been virtually impossible for me to reach these people. Now, I can chat with them daily on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.

It’s a strange and wonderful experience to call so many people “friends” who I’ve never even met. But it’s made me feel connected to the world in a very different way. In a sense, it’s made the world a whole lot smaller, and made me feel more of a connection to a wide variety of people. Through these connections I’ve deepened my sense of compassion, belonging, empathy and togetherness, all things that can contribute directly to a better world. Not to get too highfalutin about this, but I believe that we have a chance to make the world a better place, a more peaceful and understanding place, through these types of connections.

We’re In This Fight Together

As Dean-Harris said, we’re all in this fight together. We can make a difference. Each time we approach a new friend with an open heart and an open mind, whether in person or through the internet, we are contributing to the world getting a little closer to connectedness, a little closer to understanding, a little closer to peace.

As artists, we are in a unique position to accomplish this. Through our work, we can foster new connections with people throughout the world, bringing them closer to us, closer to themselves and closer to each other. This is a responsibility I do not take lightly. It’s one I cherish each and every day. And because I’ve been shown this to be true by other artists and their effect on me I’m all the more conscious of my ability to affect others in positive and uplifting ways.

“Music does bring people together. It allows us to experience the same emotions. People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit. No matter what language we speak, what color we are, the form of our politics or the expression of our love and our faith, music proves: We are the same” – John Denver

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Donovan December 6, 2010 at 9:55 am

Good one, Jason.

I have to admit (honesty brings us closer, too) that I expected to come here and find a post with some thoughts about the human experience then a pitch to donate to your project, as modern communication has trained me to expect to be a marketing taget at every turn. Instead I found a touching, honest, raw bit of openness – just putting your heart out there. Thanks for that. I am, in turn, touched and that makes me feel closer to humankind.

Happy Hanukkah, man.

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