Yes, music is art


Yes, music is art

By Sam Stryke

September 27, 2011

"Yes, music is art," writes Grand Rapids Press critic John Sinkevics (read full article). "But are songs really ArtPrize fodder?" Like Fox Mulder from the "X-Files," Sinkevics pursues the case for music's inclusion in the 3rd annual ArtPrize—the largest open art competition in the world with enormous cash awards—by documenting the performances and interviewing musicians and audience members with undeniable enthusiasm even as he seems to wonder whether anyone will really believe it. This is my response: Yes, music is art. It belongs at ArtPrize. And here is why I think so.

What makes a compelling work of art?

In my opinion, the strongest works of art at ArtPrize have 3 things in common: a strong idea, harmony between the message and the medium, and masterful execution. Take Justin La Doux's "The Tree of Re-Life," a mixed media assemblage of endangered animals made from recycled trash as well as Terry Brennan's "Dumpster Diver," a mixed media assemblage of sea life crafted from debris from the Grand River. The connection between the message and medium is undeniable in these works and both have been executed skillfully by artists who have put in the 20,000 plus hours of hard work that it takes to be great at anything—plus, they have that spark of magic that spoke to me.

Where does music fit in?

So, does art have to be visual to have a strong idea, harmony between the message and medium, and masterful execution? I think music can compete on these terms, and I encourage everyone to listen to the ArtPrize music entries such as jazz pianist/singer, John Proulx, folk-rock singer and songwriter, Michael Crittenden, and Kirtan artist, Michael Cohen among others at St. Cecilia Music Center.

In my entry, "Unconditional," I created a musical tribute to mothers. I asked friends and fans to send me photos for a Mother's Day tribute (which can be seen here on YouTube). I received a variety of photos: amateur and professional, recent and older, posed and candid, silhouettes and smiling faces, with babies and grown children. Looking at these photos, I saw emotions that I wanted to convey: I saw love and intimacy, but also pride and joy.

Using my skills that I've honed through 20 years of scoring music to picture, I chose the musical elements thoughtfully. Long, heartfelt melodies were a must to convey the strong connection evident in all of the images, and speak directly to some of the more touching photos. But, I chose to juxtapose the melodic lines with an energetic tempo and drum pulse to suit the many smiles and looks of pride. The idea of "unconditional" that emerged from these photos was sentimental but inspiring. I also used a combination of synthesizers and acoustic guitars to form an uplifting bed of electronic and organic layers, making this work an upbeat tribute to the moms with a touch of my characteristic introspection.

Yes, I believe music is ArtPrize material based on these criteria. We will soon find out what the public thinks with their votes.


Visit for more information about ArtPrize.

Read John Sinkevics's article, "Songs as ArtPrize entries? Let the debate begin as St. Cecilia hosts musical showcase downtown"

Download Sam Stryke's "Unconditional" for free.

Read more blog entries »

blog comments powered by Disqus

Contact Me