Sixty for 60: 27. Sarah Brand

This is quite the most brilliant thing I have heard in a real long time.

Many years back, during the 1990s. the term ‘Outsider Music’ came into popular usage. I first encountered it via those great series of books Re/Search released but others may have stumbled across it differently. For some, it became synonymous with mental illness or out-of-tunefulness (certainly the folk writing its Wikipedia page view it that way) but I never heard it like that. For me, it was more about a certain near childlike quality, the ability to follow your own path, create your own music, heedless or unable to take notice of what others think. Indeed, I find myself in violent objection to the claim mental illness should be associated with the term; that is both patronising and WRONG.

So Moondogg, Jandek, Jad Fair. The Langley Schools Music Project. Perhaps Daniel Johnston, but Daniel’s music follows very conventional structures and patterns if you bother listening to it. This Wiki description is a little more on the money.

The term “outsider music” is traced to the definitions of “outsider art” and “naïve art“.[3] “Outsider art” is rooted in the 1920s French concept of “L’Art Brut” (“raw art”). In 1972, academic Roger Cardinal introduced “outsider art” as the American counterpart of “L’Art Brut”, which originally referred to work created exclusively by children or the mentally ill.[4] The word “outsider” began to be applied to music cultures as early as 1959, with respect to jazz,[5] and to rock as early as 1979.[6] In the 1970s, “outsider music” was also a “favorite epithet” in music criticism in Europe.[7] By the 1980s and 1990s, “outsider” was common in the cultural lexicon and was synonymous with “self-taught”, “untrained”, and “primitive”.[4]

It is in the nature of Outsider Music that it attracts a great deal of derision and scorn from those who’d much rather their dull grey conventional rock to be dull and grey and conventional, and their boring dullard formula pop to be boring and dullard and formulaic with their reinforcement of the heteronormative hegemony and so forth. Fuck, did my colleagues at Melody Maker make fun of Daniel Johnston in the early 1990s… didn’t everyone, until I passed that T-shirt along to a more famous friend and then all of sudden everyone understood him.

Whatever.

Listen. I chanced across this, just prior to going to bed, via a random link from a random person on Facebook and… man. This is great. Seriously great. Captures pathos and heartbreak, rebellion and desire, outsider status and lust better than 30,000 conventional ‘tuneful’ singers could ever dream of doing. Neat video too. Think of it as “jazz”, as Joni Mitchell or Annette Peacock or someone if it helps you understand a little better. But seriously great. Throws the listener off-balance, disorientates them, forces them to listen closer. As John Peel once put it, “There is no such thing as good or bad music, just good and bad listeners”. You would not believe the amount of scorn and derision this simple charming song has attracted on YouTube though… or perhaps you would.

Sigh. Every single one of them missing the point.

Has anyone told you that you might be tone deaf? You should stick to directing. That was good.
Is anybody gonna tell her she can’t sing
This is what happens when daddy has a fuck ton of money and his baby girl “can be what ever she wanted to be”. All the while ignoring that fact that his baby girl lacks… talent.
I can’t tell if she wants to be singer or a stripper?


And so forth.

Ignore them, Sarah. This is brilliant.

RESPONSE FROM ARTIST

Thank you so much! I really appreciate your take on it, very interesting. Insider-outsider paradigms within a religious context prompted “Red Dress.” My inspiration stems from witnessing church organisations preaching inclusivity while practicing exclusivity. “Red Dress” chronicles this story, but also envisions a future where everyone drops their prejudices and comes together. I am passionate about this message of inclusivity and prompting reflection.

One thought on “Sixty for 60: 27. Sarah Brand

  1. Pingback: Sixty for 60: 29. The Nature Centre | How NOT to write about music

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