We’re in the middle of one of the biggest booms in independent art and music in modern history. Small labels are taking back comic shops, hundreds of new musicians premiere their work every day, and film is seeing a new renaissance, especially in the independent scene. High-brow is now low-brow, and vice versa. It’s now becoming slowly becoming normal to be “cultured.” But what does that really mean? And why does that matter for a college student?
Last weekend I took a short road trip down to Chicago for this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival. The lineup was a crazy mixture of Jazz, Synth Pop, Rap, and a little Indie Rock to round things out. Here’s the catch, though: these bands were all playing on the same stages. Fans of an artist like Miguel or Jeremih would still be hanging around during Kamasi Washington’s Sax solos, or Neon Indian’s modern funk.
That’s what’s so cool about festivals: Everybody has a reason to be there, but it may not be the same. Even then, everyone shares a love of music and performance, regardless of genre.
And here’s where we get back to where we started. Being “cultured.” One of the failures of the education today is it’s focus on facts, diagrams and rules above all else. Even in English classes, they’ll begin by teaching you how to format a paper or how to craft a solid sentence. The thing that it’s missing is education of the arts, and not just any art: ALL art. One of the things about art and music that make them so interesting is that every person has their own unique, individual taste. The problem is many people have yet to find it. And that’s what being “cultured” is really about.
Art and culture isn’t as one-laned as we’re often led to believe. Many of us have our niches. Maybe it’s hip-hop, or superhero movies, or top 40 radio. The cool thing about today’s tech-driven society is that you don’t have to be limited by what’s on the air, or what’s popular. It’s easier than ever to explore and discover new things. When you take the time to look, you can really begin to change how you see things, and even change up your own creative works.
Now, I’m finally getting to my main point. Being “cultured” in college doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it is. Being well-versed in different areas helps in more than just one way. First of all, nothing brings people together like shared interests. If you limit yourself to just what’s popular, however, you’ll limit the experiences you’ll have and the people you’ll meet. Nothing is more fun than meeting someone who likes the same weird folk band that you do, or the same artists. The more things you can find to enjoy, the more you can connect to the people around you.
Next, It opens up the door for new understandings of people and cultures around the world. I, for one, am a huge Jazz fan. While I know the classics pretty well, my personal favorite jazz artists are modern groups working out of Japan and the West Coast, like Jizue and Kamasi Washington. In both art and music, people bring their culture and their experiences to what they create in a unique way, and examining it allows you to get a better understanding of who they are as an individual.
Finally, art can be reused. Everything you see, everything you read, everything you listen to: Take something from it. Maybe a melody, or a color palette, or maybe a style of linework. Remember it for later. When the time comes, you can use that in your own pieces to create something wholly unique. For me, as a filmmaker and a writer, inspiration is one of the most important things for me to have before I begin a piece. When I’m writing a new script, I’ll sit on the floor in the middle of my house and surround myself with short stories, comic books, visual art, and even a playlist of sounds that remind me of how I want the film to feel.
So why is being “cultured” in college so important?
College is the beginning of your adult life, and as such, it’s where you begin to really fine tune who you are as a person. Art and music, and just culture in general, are a gateway to this self-discovery. When you read a book, or watch a film, or listen to an album, you’re gaining knowledge and experience that can’t be taught in a class. Art is unique in that it’s not a concrete fact, but something that conforms to the artist’s own perception. Through the arts, we can begin to connect with the people around us in new ways and truly understand who they are and what makes them tick. But more than anything, art can give you a new look into who you are as an individual, and nothing improves the world more than improving yourself.
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