“Here’s the deal, folks. You do a commercial – you’re off the artistic roll call, forever. End of story. Okay? You’re another whore at the capitalist gang bang and if you do a commercial, there’s a price on your head. Everything you say is suspect and every word that comes out of your mouth is now like a turd falling into my drink.”
– Bill Hicks, Rant in E Minor
Whoring the Blinded Muse

Now, I happen to know for a fact that in the land where dead composers go, there is much muttering about unionisation and exploitation. Per que? It’s not the ridiculous issue of copyright expiry, but disgust that the spirit of philistinism could rule our age to such an extent that Prokofiev’s gentle Morning Serenade from Romeo & Juliet becomes the John Lewis Christmas theme and the powerful, vicious violence of summer that Vivaldi caught in The Four Seasons is used to sell Renault.

OK. I’m lying. Dead composers don’t have their own land. They have to share it with dead shepherdesses. Elysium, huh? Tough. Anyway, they’re still peeved. Me, too, actually, because while you can argue that ads bring music like this to a mass audience, the music was written to evoke particular human reactions. Great music will do that regardless of how old it is. It is amazing to think that Vivaldi’s Summer [listen to that link and watch a brilliant performance in an Italian piazza) was written in 1723- almost four hundred years later it has me stabbing the air like a mad conductor on speed. And advertisers use this music – its power to evoke – to engage us, so they can sell things. Now while Moby wrote Play and then licensed all 18 tracks for adverts, I don’t think it’s what Ludwig, Gustav or Amadeus had in mind.

But we’re all ad-literate, aren’t we? So where’s the harm?
Well, if we have any emotional engagement with an advert (which I’d argue happens regardless of our own levels of ad-literacy), surely there is a problem.
It’s like the monkeys loving the mechanical mothers that I mentioned in the previous post. There’s an emotional stimulus (the music) without an emotional consummation: a product can’t hug you back or reciprocate. By purchasing, you can feel as though you are taking a step closer. I’ve bought plenty of Acme Corp’s style, sex appeal, sex appeal, style, and, oh yes, sex appeal in the past. Funny that it shape-shifts and seems to morph into cheap shoes and nasty nylon by the time I get it home.
Oliver James in Affluenza says,

We have become absolutely obsessed with measuring ourselves and others through the distorted lens of affluenza values – earnings, possessions, appearances and celebrity…. The affluenza virus values screw us up by conflating what we want with what we truly need: Having with Being.*

Avoiding AffluenzaCOME ON!
So what’s the solution? If you think you’re doing well enough, then you are. But so many people think they’re not. Why be so hard on yourself – what good does it do? Perhaps the only place to start is by understanding what our own real values are – rather than the ones we think we ought to have (for example, valuing being a good friend or honest colleague over being uber-successful, rich or a size 8). Work it out. Come on…

I belong to meeeeeee! No, ok, so no-one else might want me, but that’s not the point…
playground.jpgYour life is your life. You don’t belong to anyone. No; you don’t. And your leisure time is absolutely your very own. Protect it, fiercely. And your mind is the very best playground. You can do anything you want in there – exercise that muscle and make your imagination stronger every day. So take these assets – your control over your own life, your free time and your imagination and dictate your own values, know what they are and meet your needs from engaging with other people, or hobbies, or whatever, but not from buying, owning, having: but from being.

It’s the impacts of these actions that make the world a better place, such as the sister who encouraged her sibling not to give up, the protestor who helped create the throng that made a government relent; Rosa Parkes refusing to give up her seat on the bus; JK Rowling persisting and persisting in her search for a publisher (who knows how many future writers, artists will attribute their endeavours to Harry Potter? Or how many parents forged better relations with their kids because they were begged to read to them nightly?) It’s about Being. Not Stuff. So next time you hear music you like on an advert and get the urge to consume, find out what the music is, buy the whole thing and lose yourself in that. Make that what you buy.

*Interestingly, someone mentioned just “Being” to me today – when this was just a draft. Sunny serendipity from a cloudy day…