Sam Newsome

Sam Newsome
"The potential for the saxophone is unlimited." - Steve Lacy

Video Feature: Sam Newsome, Ben Stapp, and Joanna Mattrey

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Political Correctness: The Creative Artist's Kryptonite

Folks often ask me why I insist on pushing the envelope--especially with regards to the sonic realm of the soprano. My answer: Because I can. More accurately: Because I can without the fear of public backlash. 

As creators of instrumental music, we are immune to the kind of scrutiny that folks who work in mediums like television or print media have to deal with. Their careers can end with one racially charged tweet, an offensive YouTube video, or just saying something insensitive while the cameras are running. We’re living in an age where even stand-up comics are having to apologize for doing what people have always paid them to do: take us to an uncomfortable place, and then make us laugh. 

In our line of work, if people don’t like what we do, they just leave--or don’t bother showing up at all. I’d much rather this than having to apologize for being an artist.  

As musicians, particularly in the realm of experimental music, we can unapologetically go to the dark and uncomfortable places that people in most fields can't. I don't want to come off as one of these people who attach an over-inflated sense of importance to what they do. But we really are in a unique position. We are immune to the creative curse of political correctness. At this moment in time, that's saying a lot. Let's face it: PC-culture is kryptonite to creativity, thinking differently, and pushing the envelope. Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Don Rickles, and many other great comedic minds would never be given a platform to thrive in this culture of not offending. Not without the social justice warriors trying to shut them down at every opportune moment. 

We have an amazing opportunity as artists--especially sound artists. For the next few decades, the world might look to us as being the ones who can offer a view unhampered by identity politics and fear of offending--sort of like it used to be. In fact, back in the early 1900s, the jazz culture was thirty years ahead of the rest of the nation as far as race relations and redefining what it meant to be an American, particularly a black American. Maybe that time has returned. We no longer have to follow the neo-conservative musical behaviors of the 1990s. Those gatekeepers who made us jump through hoops just to have an opportunity to play music, no longer exist. It's actually funny that many musicians are still propping these people up, and are begging to be picked by them, even though they have absolutely no relevance in this era of abundance. 

I'll say this: Thank goodness I’m not a writer, a radio talk-show host, a TV news commentator, a politician, or a stand-up comic, for that matter, but a creative artist working in the medium of sound. My career won’t end on one bad note. And if it does, that note will be sure to make history!

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