Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Kristen Madsen from The GRAMMY Foundation delivered...

...a most beautiful and eloquent speech about the importance of the arts, creativity and the wholeness that comes from digging and seeking for the full human experience.

From The GRAMMY Foundation's "CUE THE MUSIC" Event in LA on January 28, 2010:

At the 1939 Worlds Fair, when David Sarnoff, the founder of NBC introduced television, he clearly recognized the impact this new technology was poised to leverage. He said, “It is an art which shines like a torch of hope in a troubled world. It is a creative force which we must learn to utilize for the benefit of all mankind.”

In its public debut, this fledgling medium was introduced as an art form, a creative force. In that moment, it was bound together with its sister arts – endowed with a power that we in this room inherently understand, but to which so many others remain stubbornly tone-deaf.

The first people who truly understood the power of the arts were the ancient Greeks. They believed that the arts and astronomy were two sides of the same coin. Astronomy was the tool to understand the relationships between observable, external objects. The arts, on the other hand, could decipher the relationships between invisible, interior forces.

The arts can burrow into our hearts and unlock the puzzles they find there – in our interior selves. That exploration of what is life-sustaining inside all of us, while incredibly rewarding, requires great discipline and patience.

Today, we are surrounded by evidence that we are maddeningly willing to surrender to the seduction of sound bites and headlines.

Our capacity to dig deep is at risk of atrophying in a world where finding an opinion that matches our own is as simple as the click of a mouse.

We’ve allowed ourselves to become so mesmerized by the shiny penny of the mass quantities of everything available at any time, that we’ve forgotten that the volume itself is of no consequence – it’s merely a distraction.

Consider the very stark contrast between a carefully curated collection vs. the accumulations of a compulsive hoarder.

A single day spent diving deep is worth a lifetime skimming the surface.

And the velocity of change in our external environment – more relentless now than ever previously – also seem to be having an impact on our memories. Our ability to recall even our most immediate history – particularly if it is inconvenient or boring -- is itself becoming a thing of the past.

But of course, change will be our constant, if sometimes unwelcome, companion. In the words of my favorite tv character of the past decade, the philosopher/saloon owner Al Swearengen on HBO’s Deadwood, “Change aint’ lookin’ for friends. Change calls the tune we dance to.”

As we are being propelled along this journey, where the need to speed-communicate is apparently so urgent that we can’t even take time to type complete words much less sentences, remember that the arts are our best antidote to a “path of least resistance” life.

We may not be able to call our own tune. We can choose our favorite choreography. We should recalibrate our values to champion depth over breadth. We must celebrate the arts’ ability to give anchor to our memories and flight to our imaginations. Let’s all drink deep from that rich and nourishing well.

-Kristen Madsen
January 28, 2010