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MUSIC/ The Truth Lurks Inside the Bubble of Attitude and Commerce

John Waters, curator of “3 Chords and a Longing for the Truth” - one of the exhibitions at this year’s Meeting of Rimini – explains the thinking and objectives of the exhibition

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Is it possible that a song on the radio can transmit the longing for ‘something beyond’ of one human being, the writer/singer/musician, through time and space, to the heart of another, the listener? How might this work? How common is it? Is it an exception or something everyday? How, through the paraphernalia of the world’s most fashion-context business, through countless wires and connections, underneath the surface qualities of hipness and attitudinizing, might the desiring of the artist for something that is almost always unstated, be preserved and communicated?

This is the question at the heart of our exhibition, “3 Chords and a Longing for the Truth: Rock ‘n’ roll as a quest for the Infinite “ at the 2012 Meeting of Rimini in a few weeks’ time.

Although its roots are in the sorrow, pain, labour, loss and heartbreak of the human journey, recent  pop culture has contrived to ‘forget’ its beginnings, creating a bubble of commerce and attitude to hide for its founding truths. The roots of most of our contemporary musical forms emerge from Blues and Gospel, forms which stretch the true note between the muddy deltas of human habitation and the glittering firmaments above. Now reduced, outwardly at least, to ‘showbusiness’ and ‘entertainment’, the holiness of the song is forced inwards into a closed circuit, a communicating and receiving that becomes mistakable for something else – diversion, avoidance, entertainment – and so capable of being denied in its true nature.

The exhibition will seek to show that this attempt towards reduction is in many instances unsuccessful – that the core communication, ‘heart to heart”, between the artist and the listener, continues to occur and represents the very core of the experience that attracts us to this music.

“3 Chords and a Longing for the Truth” will demonstrate and celebrate the presence of human desiring as the fundamental driving force of the music that continues to captivate the young, using examples of songs and artists that span the total history of the medium, those who have remained among the greatest modern performers and their inheritors who promise to carry the mission forward. It will seek to trace the unspoken journey that really explains the power and popularity of this music – from its origins of the in Blues and Gospel, right to the present-day practitioners like Coldplay, U2 and Mumford & Sons, who adhere to this original impulse but without seeking to draw attention to what they’re doing.

The central question will really be: if it is true, as Don Giussani tells us, that desire is always good, what does this mean for us in considering the challenge of the influence of rock ‘n’ roll in modern culture? Because if what Giussani says is indeed true, it becomes clear that what attracts the young to this music must bear some relationship, to begin with at least, to the true source of human longing and to the nature of human destiny.