I WORRY about content. I worry about story. And yet something in me keeps avoiding those areas. Or is it that I am incapable of dealing on a story level, just as I am unable to write a tune? The talent of writing a good tune is especially admirable when we think of how long composers have been arranging and rearranging those few notes into something that sticks as a melody. A story must be like that -- a specific talent to come up with the sequence of events, the unfolding of information that captures us and has us eagerly awaiting the outcome, as though we were children. And even if we already know the story, we enjoy going through it again.
Yet, I hear often that there are no good tunes anymore -- or not as many. And we all know that it is very rare that we hear or read or see a good new story. Sometimes, in life or the history of our times, a good new story springs up. Usually, these natural stories are born from elements that never quite existed before. I think of Clifford Irving's Howard Hughes fraud; Patricia Hearst's kidnaping -- stories out of the times, keeping the readers and TV news audience coming back for more, week after week. Until finally, almost as though a movie mind were behind it, the Symbionese leaders have one final shoot-up on TV news, or the final facts of the Hughes hoax are concluded, like that payoff that everyone is waiting for. Surely some of this is engineered by the journalists, editors whose professions demand that they be sensitive to the public's expectations, despite the truth. Not that they lie -- they lie a little bit, to make the stories better.
The problem of content is that perhaps after the tens, hundreds or even thousands of years that content has been manifested into stories, we have used up any content that can possibly be relevant to our times. If we insisted on story and content as a prerequisite of narrative art, then all we can do is a clever re-creation of what has already been done. Not that some prodigy cannot squeeze one last fresh idea out of the mash of the times. Occasionally, we even hear a melody that is so fresh and so beautiful, one wonders if in fact someone else must have whistled it a few hundred years ago and we never heard it before.
I hope this discussion doesn't lead one to think that there cannot be new stories or tunes anymore. Perhaps, though, there cannot be new story content until we move into a world with some new givens. I think of the little clocks or counters that they have on tape recorders, or other clocks or calculators, in which for each complete rotation of one wheel, the next one turns one digit; then a whole new rotation is possible, until the next gear turns another digit, and so on.
The gear of story content has turned the full nine digits. All we can do now is tell the same stories about the same ideas, over and over again -- perhaps with new style, but almost the same stories. We have exhausted the well. However, if we could just change the world we live in by one single notch, a whole universe of content awaits us.
It is true -- I am more interested in technology than I am in content. This, in some circles, is the same as admitting that one is a child molester and likes it. The truth is that I am interested in a content that I cannot get at. I yearn to be able to move into a world where story and content is available to me; where my ideas connect into a pattern that could be identified as Story. But I truly cannot get there. And I find it equally impossible, though I have tried, to recycle the old stories of the past as most movies do today.
I don't believe that talented people of today have fewer gifts than their artistic ancestors. The times are exhausted -- stories come from the structure of ideas, ethics, beliefs, actualities of the times. Our times are exhausted--not our artists.
Technology, however, is one aspect of today that is truly fresh, brimming with new tunes and story turns. Ones that we have never heard or thought about before. So there is and can be content in technology. New tunes that we've never heard before, because they've never been possible before.
And with a new technology comes a tidal wave of new givens, new beliefs, new ideas -- and, most important, a new group of rulers. I hate to use such an archaic word for it -- but that's what they are, rulers. Whether they are the priests of a powerful and entrenched world religion, or the lords who control the land and agriculture -- the merchant seaman, conquistadors, the captains of the Industrial Revolution -- they are our rulers. And they and their ideas only move out when progress moves them out by changing the nature of where power comes from.
I am beginning to have the thought that my primal interest in technology is a temporary phase, a vehicle, not unlike the ships of ancient explorers, taking us from the old world to a new continent of content and story. And probably new melodies as well. At that time I fantasize to leave the old ship, and move into still another new era of art and thinking.