What I am attempting to formulate today is the sort of elevator pitch necessary for any start-up business seeking investment. I am going to enumerate why others should support me, not because they love me as family or friends, but based on the merits of my creative project.
Parenthetically: There is little more odious to me than grand-standing. Self-aggrandizing assessments should be viewed with healthy skepticism. However, there is no getting around the fact that in order to be successful within art and entertainment, as in business, one has to give the air of confident enthusiasm that one has something significant to offer. So, then, we consider: “why me?”
My project is simple: try very hard to elevate art, and in so doing, elevate others.
That I know who Longinus is, is not in itself significant. That I contemplate the nature and function of aesthetics is. That I am the manner of songwriter who is aware of the sublime in practice, that I employ Hellenistic edicts, like those which dictate that art must delight and instruct (Horace), gives me an edge over the millions who have posted their bedroom concerts on YouTube.
There is art, and there is good art. I will not put forward that which is beneath me. I have talent and vision, and ability to differentiate good art from that of an inferior quality. I have perseverance to carry me through today, and ideals to keep me acting according to consistent virtues tomorrow.
But you ask, what need does my “product” fill? What niche?
Problem: An increasing trend in popular mediums of art toward vacuity.
It turns out the unexamined life is worth living, and living fabulously. Popular culture and technology today give us an unprecedented platform with which to disseminate ideas. We have a huge megaphone to espouse our needs and desires, and the audience readily available to hear. However, what is being said, the discourse, is lacking.
We bring about the meteoric rise of Britney Spears and Lyndsay Lohan-style media moguls, live vicariously through their sexual trysts, then watch with detached curiosity as they fall from grace. The truth is, we only have ourselves to blame for our character-flawed superstars. They were thrust into the spotlight when they never had any integrity, or informed world-view to begin with.
We can’t be a culture of idealists when our popular culture sings to us about getting drunk and losing our phones in the club. We like to say, I don’t listen to the lyrics, I just like the beat, but we definitely do end up getting the messages of misogyny and superficiality steaming from the top of the heap of the billboard charts.
Our entertainers, professional athletes, and the like, if afforded with such far- reaching influence, are our cultural ambassadors. What is demanded of them, therefore, is something close to the responsibility of public office. They must be substantive, purposeful, and committed to dharma when they represent us. They are precisely the ones who should acknowledge and act based on the understanding: The state of a given culture’s Art is directly correlative to the overall health of that culture.
Solution: Support of those passionate individuals who strive to raise standards of artistic expression, and subsequently improve the health and standing of the greater cultural milieu.
I care intensely about the quality of art which we release to the world. There are paintings which make me cry on observation, and there are the rest. There are songs which make me want to run ten miles, or right the injustices of the world, and there are the rest. Good art has these effects. It is the result of discipline, rigor, empathy, discerning taste, and appropriate skill.
I am the change I wish to see in the art I produce. I slave over initial concept, consistent metaphor, syntax, diction, rhyme scheme, arresting melody, awakening rhythm, post-production, and all that is otherwise applicable. I am someone who knows that our best art is almost overwhelmingly ambitious; that it cannot be rushed, and that it takes the time it needs for the necessary degree of quality to be achieved.
When I write songs, I draw from various perspectives. I author works of autobiographical sincerity, as well as from the perspective of invented personas.
I have written metaphors of human existential angst, as the last bastion of humanity careens through the cosmos looking for a new planet and purpose in vain. I have written of art thieves stealing in an effort to re-appropriate art from its fate as commodity. I have written of my own personal struggle with feelings that we are only an amalgam of our own memories and plans for the future, and what it means for our sense of self as those memories slowly slip away.
I have written a catchy and satirical piece which opens with imagery from a Sergio Leone western, where “the man with no name” materializes out of the desert. This character ends up being Death incarnate, rapping about the end times. It is called “Apocalypse” and it is my tongue-in-cheek jab at humanity for being so obsessed with all things eschatological. Some of the rap is as follows:
- Yes now it’s on by his decree,
- Your earthly kings all fall to me
- Where’s your name in the Book of Life?
- It’s by the ones who wouldn’t sacrifice,
- Envy, Greed, or selfish Pride,
- So enjoy your fate, eternal strife
- And your vice over paradise
- Don’t look now, you’re taciturn
- Yeah, you rest assured your flesh will burn
- And you know you must be right
- It’s a well-found gleam in your glutton eyes
- As I’m here to reap what’s ripe
- There’s no relief in sight
- Man’s works you idolize
- Lightening, hail, the whole earth will shake
- Certain fate you can’t escape
- It’s the end of the human race
- Apocalypse has come
To write this song I spent no small amount of time reading “Revelations” and searching all over the internet for related ideas and articles. This is the character of the process for my song writing. It is intense, sometimes scholarly, and always seeking its most ideal resolution. Sometimes I cannot decide whether I want to be an artist that is incredibly prolific, or if I would prefer to be the kind of perfectionist which Walt Whitman embodied. He spent a large portion of his life revising “Leaves of Grass.” In a way, this is the kind of Zen-like quality that I most admire.
Regardless, my work explores what the priorities of human existence could or should be, of not accepting what tradition has imposed without critical assessment for one’s self, of existential love, the limits of Epicureanism, and the ecstasy and brevity of art. I employ fifty cent words, complex lyrical structures, sometimes hyperbole. I invert clichés, and invent new ones.
I believe we need to return to that from which we came. To be replenished by the spring of purpose once inherently welling in us. We need to lay the foundation for a new renaissance where humanity is bolstered by the audacity of our most elevated hour. We need a cultural shift toward greater appreciation of beauty and truth than of competition, and objectification. We need a return to patronage, and far-reaching arts initiatives which make it honorable to teach and follow the muses again.
I suggest that you choose me in this charge. But if I have not seductively shopped my wares, then I beseech you to support one of my many venerable peers.
But take from me these considerations and listen well to the aphorism of Michelangelo: “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”
Kevin Pettit is not cost prohibitive. I have a product which is available to extremely constrained budgets. One can spend $10 to push forward my Kickstarter campaign, they can spend $.99 on a single song download on itunes, or they can show their support by alleviating the financial burden of my everyday life which derails me from my creative efforts, they can cover my parking meter, or nominate me as a MacArthur fellow.
I work as a carpenter. The other day, one of the men I work with, Jimmy, was defensive about new safety regulations and quipped: “I have been on roofs for 30 years. I do not think about falling. If you think about falling all of the time, you are going to fall. “
Elegant in its simplicity, this gem proves axiomatic for the aspiring artist. Right thoughts produce right actions. We are subject to things largely out of our control with names like dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, on the firing of synapses. There are neurochemical imbalances and mental handicaps in the world, to be certain, but for most of us, the power to work intentionally toward our aspirations is largely a matter of will. To succeed at a given task, we need only to believe the narrative we have authored for ourselves, lay out pragmatic steps and incremental goals, and set out.
Everything piecemeal. If you are trying to paint a landscape masterpiece, you might gesso your canvas on the first day and do preliminary sketches in a sketchbook. The second day you begin your underdrawing. On the third day when you have A Mountain View of Cypress all sketched out, you work with the new goal of getting all of the trees painted the next day, etc. The realization of small steps gives us something to celebrate along the way; it reduces the delay of gratification, and allays potential feelings of failure. We have to avoid the tendency of not measuring up to our own expectations, and thus bringing on feelings of inadequacy in our already very sensitive souls.
Sensitivity coupled with willingness to make a gesture in the world is most of what makes an artist. When we are younger we are more willing to make mistakes. We are not concerned with what our peers or critics will think. We are moved to paint a landscape or write a quirky poem, and we do so, innocently surrendering ourselves to the moment or spark.
As we mature, we learn to censor ourselves. As we age we don’t put ourselves “out there” as much. We have honed our defenses, learned by emotional turmoil not to leave ourselves open to attack. We process everything through that self-censorship filter. The trick is getting around this mechanism.
So the artist, to stay an artist, views a beautiful scene, or soundscape, or a conversation with a friend, as monumental, and feels pangs to immortalize the event; then she works practically toward the realization thereof. She starts with the everyday occurrence, thinks of where it may ideally go (the realized art), and begins. She can have doubts and pronounced sadness in her life, but she doesn’t fall victim to some self-loathing paralysis brought on by unrealized grandeur. She has to be receptive to every moment, because at any moment the muse may strike. And this is what an artist is, a miner of everyday experience. She chips at walls, picks rocks, observes other naturally occurring minerals, follows the seam, and is rewarded only after long and arduous labors.
Variety is the spice of life. But, like everything else, its satisfactory and tasteful ends are based on degree. Being exceptionally varied can be a death knell for the artist. What is the strength of a Monet, a Van Gogh, or a Winslow Homer? Is it not in their respective clearly identifiable signature styles? The same is true for music. The reason that The Rolling Stones or The White Stripes are household names is because you can hear any one of their songs and even if you are not familiar with it, you know it is part of the cannon of this artist that you respect. There is affinity between and across performances and creations.
I have disparate tastes. I like Rage Against the Machine and Beethoven, Iron & Wine and Snoop Dog. I was the editor of my high schools literary magazine, and for it I created the theme of “beauty in disorder.” The notion being that disparate things can have certain hegemony or order when they are brought together. I don’t think I have yet gotten over this trope. The current songs I have prepared for inclusion on my first full-length record are wildly dissimilar. While I am happy with each of them individually, I wonder if I have not done myself a disservice with my desire to be eclectic.
All of this much to the point of: why make art? Who is the truly intended audience? The world at large, the critic, yourself? I believe all artists must first look to suit themselves, to present a microcosm of meaning within their anecdotal life events, and then externalize it, adding pathos, humor, irony, etc. and in that way have made a real effort at connection and relevance with other subjectivities. But to have any degree of widespread acclaim, an artist might find herself looking for something packagable; a consistent signature look and sound.
Welcome. Kevin Pettit, songwriter, is the sole proprietor of a business. My business is a parent company for my creative endeavors, meant to administer the intellectual property I have authored. Eventually, Pettit Multimedia may be parent to an in-house record company, potentially developing other talent, as well as recording, producing, licensing, and otherwise placing my own creations in the world at large. First, and foremost, however, my duty is to make my intentions known to the public, the mission statement of Pettit MultiMedia (PMM) is as follows:
To produce that which engages and enriches everyday experience through primarily audio, and sometimes visual means, and to pursue this end without sacrificing personal ethics or effacing honor. To revere, and act in accordance with the principle of Arete, and privilege creative vision over financial gain, to be steadfast in the avoidance of avarice. To advance our standing in the public with the greater aim to serve society, and the needs of charitable institutions and foundations. To produce art which is intelligent, demanding, accessible, if sometimes subversive, using rhetorical and literary devices, cinematic and visual motifs, and discerning taste.