The Mars Volta

Culture is shamelessly recombinant

I’m listening to that offspring of The Mars Volta’s creative and prolific irreverence, De-loused in the Comatorium, while writing this.

“[…] This is the house of Roulette Dares / Ruse of metacarpi / Caveat Emptor / To all that enter here […]”

Non-sensical lyrics, proficient instrumentation, bizarre orchestration and dissonance at length. The Mars Volta draws on rock, jazz, punk, electronic music, salsa and cuban son (and a lot more) to bring something that could be plain eclecticism, but raises as a new sound. Maybe you’ll like it, maybe you won’t; but the sole fact that works for some people, and that is different, makes it remarkable.

And not only “worth talking about” as Seth Godin would say, but also “worth identifying with”. That’s when you project yourself onto something and the result tells a story about you.

But building an identity requires effort. Requires you to not stand still, passive, while others decide what you listen to, wear, read, say or think. That gets patience, persistence and passion.  Demands your attention, questions your self-perception, and furthers your aesthetic conception.

There is an anthropologist (whose newest book I’ve been reading this week),  Grant McCracken, who coined a term for a powerful concept. The Diderot effect. When there is some A related to some B, such that when you let A go in, B makes his way in too.  I recommend reading Diderot’s tale about a man who changed his gown, and a whole change came with it. I specially like this excerpt below, reminding us that there is no such thing as a ‘finished’ taste:

“[…] the most sublime taste is not exempt from change; change means throwing things away, turning things upside down, building something new; in the end there is nothing left in the family strongbox […]”

It is worth noting that he also warns us about this easy path to bankruptcy =P. As could be seen, this Diderot effect is highly tied to our consumerist behaviour. Is information, aesthetics and knowledge consumerism. And with new connections, it is now more than ever a social one. It’s just that I’m not sure we should refrain from it. In a time where the social and economic ideologies of half-a-century ago fell apart and lost their appeal for most (and I mean even the ‘capitalist’ ones), we are left only with a personal quest.

Going back on track, our identity quest requires effort, and if I’m to stay faithful to previous thoughts (surely that won’t last for long), the only way you can build this identity thing is with impulses. A train, a sequence, of impulses. While they are short-lived you can benefit from them if you capture their energy. If they build one on top of the other – you integrate over them -, you are going somewhere. Your personal path.

But they not pile in a linear fashion, they interact and conform different personas inside you. Personas whose dynamics come as transitions and transformations. That’s the topic of Part 2.

Till next time!