Speak Now: It Is Time to Create
What change for good can I possibly effect with my distinctly non-political pieces? What can my small drop in the ocean of music do to help anyone at all?
I don’t know about you, but ever since November 8 anxiety and fear have been choking my creative voice. I released my latest album in late October, and my plan was to begin work on the next album after a very short brain rest. However, I found myself staring listlessly at my computer during my scheduled creative time (after work and on the weekends), struggling to hear anything of interest or beauty in my head. All I could detect was the feedback of rage and despair—for myself as a woman and all other female-identifying people, and for my friends who experience hate because of the color of their skin or the texture of their hair—caused by the hate that is poisoning my country. In spite of the wall of pain that these feelings have put between my creative mind and my fingers, I have been reluctant to attempt to ignore them or block them out; I do not want to become an internal émigré while all that I love about my country is under active threat of destruction.
In this storm of anxiety I began to question the value of my weird, experimental synthesizer music. What change for good could I possibly effect with my distinctly non-political pieces? What could my small drop in the ocean of music do to help anyone at all?
At some point in late November—as I witnessed other artist-friends deal with similar creative blocks—a tiny voice in my head said, “Fight!” It took me a few days to understand the meaning of that message: Now, even now—especially now—artists need to persevere and create. We need to fight the feeling of hopelessness and uselessness if for no other reason than that’s what the enemy always intended to instill in us. People of hate do not want us to keep creating; they want to silence us, because a healthy, vibrant art-life is one of the key indicators of freedom. You want to subjugate the millions? A good step in that direction is to squash out the life of your country’s arts.
Right about now you are all probably thinking of Leonard Bernstein, who said, “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” Though these words have filled my Twitter feed to the point of oversaturation during the past couple of years, they nonetheless resonate in my head as I begin to learn how to remain in the world, engaging with the crisis, while also continuing to develop my creative voice. I think of all of the music and art that has “saved” me throughout my thirty-seven years, and I become thankful that those artists did not think to themselves, “Well, what use is my art anyway? Time to give up.” Don’t give up; someone out there needs your art. Don’t become an internal émigré; someone out there will need your signature, or your donation, or for you to be their witness.
My music will never be political. It will never directly change anyone’s mind about the importance of liberty and freedom. But it may provide comfort, or inspiration, or—if I’m really lucky—it may broaden someone’s mind. Regardless, I will continue to create, and I will continue to fight for the life of liberty in my country.
Meg Wilhoite is an editor, writer, and musician based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has written about music for several outlets and occasionally makes her own music. Connect with her on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and/or Soundcloud.