Music: It’s About Power and Purpose

I find myself rewatching this 2012 SXSW keynote speech of Bruce Springsteen.

I recall a recent conversation with some fellow. He said that the problem with the music you hear today “is that it’s not pure”.


At that time were talking about rock music. Although I understood his point (he was complaining about how the use of synths and other electronics makes music you hear today… suck), when he said that, the images that went into my head were those of a cable running from an electric guitar to an oversized effects board, then through another cable going to an amp to another cable then through a mixer1. You get what I mean.

His statement was a generational statement. It’s the kind older generations say to the next, and it can be applied to just about anything. The problem with [pop music today] is [too much EDM]. The problem with [a lot of OPM singers today] is [too many octave coverage per song]. The problem with [OPM rock] is [too much pogi rock]. The problem with [Jolly spaghetti] is [it’s not really spaghetti, but it’s the only spaghetti I know].

Having heard many opinions on what defines authentic or original or pure music, the bias rationale has always been based (for the most part) on the music we grew up with or has made a transformative effect on us. We get so nerdy impassioned about it, and we project it on to our peers. I don’t think it should be used as a criteria to judge other’s work by, but should be by which Springsteen has said so well: “It’s the power and purpose of your music that still matters.”

“So as the records that my music was initially released on give way to a cloud of ones and zeroes, and as I carry my entire record collection since I was thirteen in my breast pocket, I’d like to talk about the one thing that’s been consistent over the years, the genesis and power of creativity, the power of the songwriter, or let’s say, composer, or just creator. So whether you’re making dance music, Americana, rap music, electronica, it’s all about how you are putting what you do together. The elements you’re using don’t matter. Purity of human expression and experience is not confined to guitars, to tubes, to turntables, to microchips. There is no right way, no pure way, of doing it. There’s just doing it.

We live in a post–authentic world. And today authenticity is a house of mirrors. It’s all just what you’re bringing when the lights go down. It’s your teachers, your influences, your personal history; and at the end of the day, it’s the power and purpose of your music that still matters.”

— Bruce Springsteen

There’s so much to take away from his speech besides what I quoted above, and so many tangential discussions to branch out to; but it’s the most illuminating.

Power and purpose. The criteria to what any artist should be measured by. To have a purpose for your every creation and summoning all you have and know to amplify it so that everyone would be able to get your message. Bring it and own it. Every. Single. Time.

My thanks to Mike Mirasol for sending me this video link.

  1. I may have gotten this setup wrong. My point remains the same though. ↩︎