At one point or another, every generation seems to feel as though the world is ending. Mine is no exception. Most often, the feeling has to do with war. Sometimes it is a weakened or crashed economy. On a personal level, it can be heartbreak; injury or illness; the death of a loved one. The inability to imminently provide or achieve dreams. At the close of 2018, things seemed both the most hopeful and hopeless they’ve ever been. Most days I wake up thinking about the rise in overt neo-nazi activity, migrant children starving or sick and separated from their families at the border of my country. Slave labour crafting our clothes, electronics, and holiday decorations half a dozen time zones away. Climate change shrinking our landscapes and biodiversity. What am I supposed to do? How can I live in any sort of joy when there is so much pain, so much hate circulating and encapsulating my species?
I believe that we are all privy to these realities — conscious or not. Accepting or unaccepting. How can we not feel them? How are we anything but harrowed? When I think that there is no point to making art in light of these realities, the only conclusion I can come to time and time again is that there is nothing else I must do more. For my own sanity, but also for the sake and sanity of others. For the possibility of an impact that is both inspiring and connective. Art is a tool and it so often begins the discussion. It can bridge the gaps between those who feel lost and those who find strength. It gives us something productive to do in times of boredom and especially in times of strife; it fosters a sense of identity – a value immeasurable in neither dollars nor blood.
At the beginning of 2019, I am at odds with a world on the brink of utter disillusionment. I am on parallel with humans who have decided to adapt, to stand up for their fellow person, to disagree with popular opinion. And I am committed twice over to my lifelong journey as a vocalist, pianist, composer, poet, and multi-media collaborator. I am thrilled to be Dance Theatre Surreality’s in-house composer and work on 7 Gorges as a music consultant. I am so excited to continue writing, performing, recording, and touring with my bands Matron and Tranche. I remain deeply in love with my homebase/city of New Orleans at a very potent moment when I am also redefining what concepts like ‘home’ and ‘love’ actually mean to me. Places never let me down; they are always reflections of my present moment. In the same way, I retain strong affection for my former home and forever artistic base of New York City as well.
So what does it mean to make art in a self-destructing society?
It means we must accept that an end comes eventually, but perhaps sooner or even harsher than we thought it would. It means that ‘temporary’ is truer than usual. It means that to feel these truths — a cry, an elation of each others’ brief existences — is more sacred than anything, and perhaps with a new kind of immediacy. To facilitate such experiences is both a gift and a responsibility.