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08 October 2015

A Theory of Art: The Consumption of Music as Control

As I've written before on this blog (here and here), I am a fan of metal musics. Often, though, I am forced to defend myself to those who claim that metal is all about hate, misogyny, anger, death, etc. It occurred to me that no one ever seems to force fans of the blues to defend their tastes as being depressive, melancholic, or acedic. It got me thinking.

It is cliche to talk about the blues helping to assuage the feeling of the depression. To say that artistic expression is cathartic is overly simplistic. More accurately, I propose that artistic expression and appreciation are purposeful indulgences in emotions and behaviors intended to exact (at least the perception of) control over that which threatens personal or social harm. A bluesman plays the blues to reclaim himself from the depression wrought by privation. The metalhead plays metal to acknowledge and subdue the experience of hate and anger brought on by marginalization. Similarly, the skydiver jumps out of a plane not to celebrate suicide but to champion our control over death, and a thrill-seeker rides a roller coaster to embrace life, not to be reckless with it.

I wonder if we could extend this to video games, particularly violent video games, or to pornography. To some extent, perhaps all consumption of media amounts to an agential program of control.

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