Thursday, May 05, 2005

Ramones Re-dux

Scott Atkinson rightly (and quite gently) reminds me that punk is not all about anger – there are playful and fun elements to it as well. He’s right – I was somewhat hasty in my labeling it as an expression of rage alone. Perhaps a better all-encompassing term would be “energy” – there is a vast reservoir of untapped energy that is aching for release. The driving energy of punk music (and most Rock music in general) is simply a release of internal energy of the listener. It is a mild form of Aristotle’s catharsis, arising not from the purging power of a well plotted tragedy, but from the emotional power of music.

I also neglected the deep connection between punk, rock, and pop. Punk is perhaps a logical outgrowth of Rock – after all, one of the essential defining elements of rock is a sense of rebellion and finding your own way. I can’t help but think of Jack Black in School of Rock trying to explain Rock to the highly cultured children. He explains it in terms of releasing anger. “Rock and Roll used to be a way to stick it to the man. But then along came MTV!!!!” – lines directly echoed by the Ramones in the documentary. They basically said that MTV ruined their business because you had to fit their business model if you wanted to get played. Thus the rise of 80’s pop, which did have great punk influence, but it tamed down and characterized by sweetness and playfulness and exuberance.

And then I’m reminded of Douglas Rushkoff’s Coercion when he talks about the coercive nature of the spectacle – the stage show. Think of this comment in connection to the live stage shows of great bands: “When we are part of a crowd, we are free to experience heightened levels of emotions that just aren’t possible for smaller groups. Relieved of our responsibility to make considered judgments, we can allow ourselves to be swept away by the enthusiasm of the greater body. Whatever everyone in the crowd has in common -- yet may not be free to express in daily life -- is amplified by the intensity of the spectacle and the protection that the anonymity of a mob affords.” (118).

Rushkoff says that we live much of life with a rage that begs for expression -- the anonymity of a crowd allows us to give voice to that rage and “A person who is able to name this sensation at just the right moment can direct the raw emotional energy at such a gathering to almost any end he chooses.” (123). Rushkoff identifies the raw emotional energy that seems to be released by well done music.

So the question is – what is the redemptive analogy for this raw energy – is this the raw energy that we release in powerful experiences of worship? (go read some of the psalms again). Is this the thrill that comes as a team returns from a mission trip. Is this the energy we feel when a deep insight from the Word grips us? Is the Holy Spirit working in us to sanctify these raw bursts of energy within – or rather sanctify our expression of them?

Just thinking – let me know what you think.
Soli Deo Gloria