You know that moment in the movie when the protagonist is on the verge of ultimate success? Or perhaps when he finds himself on the brink of total annihilation? Can you remember that scene in which he wanders moodily down a shady path, contemplating his oh-so-serious problems? If so, your memory is probably flooding, not only with the visuals of these scenes, but with the unique sound that accompanies each of them. All the typical stuff. The blaring trumpets, whining violins and shrieking guitars – it’s all there. Hollywood’s number one way of tweaking our emotions is to infuse a powerful moment with some carefully selected tunes. Really, it’s no wonder why; we’d all love to live our lives to a soundtrack. In fact, most of us do, at least as much as we can. I see the iconic white ear buds wherever I go. You might jog to music, or write that final paper, or have a quick solo dance party before that big audition. In a time of significance, music adds a touch of bravado, a kind of “larger-than-life” quality. Of course, this quality isn’t just limited to music. Think back to the last movie that left you speechless, or to the novel that stayed locked in your mind days after you closed the final page. Any sort of art can impact us in this way. It makes us thoughtful, fills us with drive, and propels us into action. But how?
Art is brave. It valiantly communicates the things that we are afraid to say. Somehow, it finds the right words, the right rhythm and the right expression; it allows itself to be a vehicle for our individual voices. Just imagine the absolute fearlessness required of an artist. Think of the actor who quite literally embodies the “blood, sweat and tears” manifesto, and leaves everything of herself on the stage, all for the sake of telling a better story. Picture the musician, who opens herself to heartache, loneliness and every other emotional scar, and who then has the strength of spirit to compile it all into the next great love song. These are people who boldly dedicate their lives to moments of extremes. They’ll write a song, or paint a picture, or act a scene inspired by the stories of their own life. Then it’s broadcast to the world, and all the creator can do is pray that it will be relatable to at least a few: that someone will sing along, or applaud, or at least be inspired to think. I’d like to imagine that there’s nothing more fulfilling to an artist than to know that their creativity has served as a shield for someone: that it has touched a person in some way, captured exactly how they feel, and gave them permission to feel this way by assuring them that they aren’t alone. Similarly, there must be nothing more horrifying than to realize that when one tells a story or sings a song, they are speaking only for themselves. Art is meant to be shared, to unearth and expand understanding. But first, an artist must find the courage to leave herself bared in the hopes that someone will listen and appreciate.
But the best art isn’t only brave. The best art makes us brave. There are probably five hundred songs on your IPod that don’t affect you. They may make you smile, or jog a memory, but that’s the extent of it. Every one of us, however, knows that song that means something more. The one that makes your heart skip a beat when you hear the opening chords, the one that refuses to be background noise for anything. This song strikes a nerve. This song, for that distinctly intangible reason, lifts you to your feet. Most importantly, this song helps you to do the things that you dare not do, whether that is to push through the final minutes of a sprint, or to say hello to that special someone. It absolutely won’t let you sit still until you’ve done what you needed to do. When a work of art inspires us to go past thought into action, that’s when you know it’s something special. It is that quality – utterly indefinable, yet recognized every time – that helps us to grow. Actors, think of the play that inspired you to pursue a life in the theatre. Singers, think of the song. Maybe that’s why there are so many aspiring artists out there: they’ve all been given the courage to follow their dreams. And isn’t it eloquently artistic that their dreams happen to be to inspire the same courage in others? After all, there would be far fewer love stories to tell if no one had ever been compared to a summer’s day. Protests would be far quieter if no one had ever seen that famous picture of Tiananmen Square. And while I have no way of proving it, I am absolutely positive that had this article’s titular song never been written, the world would be robbed of its favorite would-be Rocky Balboas.
So when you’re feeling cowardly, consider going to see a play, or a concert, or to visit an art gallery. You may find something that grabs hold of you, and speaks the words you felt but couldn’t find. If so, you won’t be able to forget it any time soon. It will root itself in your mind, and fill your thoughts with a single demand: get up and go.
- Hayley Moorhouse