Image via Willis Earl Beal

Image via Willis Earl Beal

In early June, Willis Earl Beal and I started exchanging emails. He sent me his new collection of songs called Experiments in Time and explained that he’d be releasing the album through and handling all his own publicity and promotion. We went back and forth about music and talked about doing an interview, and then I got an ulcer, fell behind on the internet, and came back to the emails a week or so later. I apologized for the delay and brought up the idea of a written piece instead of a Q&A. Willis replied:

I understand delay quite well.
It appears that I am the one who has delayed now.
For this, I apologize.
It is an interesting idea you have.
I say yes.
I think that there are some specific issues regarding
music production and artistic purity that I’d like to express.
Let me know if it’s a go and I will begin to write.

At 9:00 p.m., I gave him the go-ahead. At 8:30 a.m. the next morning, he turned in four pages. Below, find the essay Willis sent, unedited.

Life as Art and the Innate Destructiveness of Creative Critique

By Willis Earl Beal

Life is Art. Most people can agree on this. I’m not writing for those who can’t. When you look outside, no matter where you live, the inherent symmetry of life as it appears is obvious. From the city to the forest to the desert to the bayou to the tundra to the mountains to the ghetto; all manner of existence is a manifestation of some expression of that particular environment. Objectively speaking, they are all presentations possessing distinct colors, shapes and sizes. They are physical. They are interactive. Not all art can be symmetrical or make us feel pleasant, but nature has an order within its’ perceived “randomness” that supercedes classification. We as human beings are, unfortunately, a part of nature with all of our buildings, cars, plastics, pollution and conflict. However, to judge or critique any aspect of nature can be a fruitless pursuit, even when one is critiquing a man-made alteration that displaces many people & animals and causes destruction for the benefit of a few rich, influential beings.

The artistry that IS nature must be a contradiction; totally random yet simultaneously in perfect order, destructive yet nurturing…..every cell of every organism having a purpose in the “grand scheme” that is life. No matter what your theory regarding the beginning of life on Earth is; Evolution or Creationism, Natural selection or Divine Intervention, if you are somewhat reasonable, then you must agree that within any infrastructure, within any body, any system; there are many smaller components/cells that allow the larger entity to operate and exist. This basic, simple fact substantiates all formations (even the ones we don’t like), leaving the linear mind in a state of perpetual flux.

In order to “fix” this, the linear mind arranges categories, genres, morals, rules and regulations. This act of “fixing” is an attempt on the part of the linear mind to control reality as it presents itself. We all have linear minds. Within the context of my argument, “Reality” is “Nature” and “Nature” is “Art”. “Art” is the pure, almost involuntary expression of all things and situations at all times.

If Art is nature under the circumstances in which I have presented, then how can it be truly judged? Though I’m quite aware that I have simultaneously validated the preservers and the destroyers, the “good” and the “evil”, I believe that a certain fairness and objectivity can be achieved at the most basic level of Art/Life which manifests itself in the music, paintings, drawings, sculptures, and writings of humans. We can choose. We must choose. To my knowledge, other species do not have the ability to form abstract thought in the way that we, as humans do. In a way, abstract thought can be considered a curse when one reflects upon the divisive behavior we exhibit as a result of having it, but it doesn’t have to be this way. We can use this abstract thought to choose clear-headed analysis rather than submission to the artistry of ignorance and cruelty.

Along with Real Estate developers, Police, Politicians, Bank CEOs and most organized religious figures, we have CRITICS OF ART! I call them bullshit artists or criminals.

We can choose reason and objectivity rather than blindly accepting the opinion of some insensitive, misguided critic who can never comprehend the idiosyncracies and complexities of another artists’ personal experience . Rest assured, this individual, this critic, is the representative of some institution (whether they know it or not). This institution undoubtedly wants to control your conscious and subconscious responses. If you wish to be a true original, then this is the kind of institution that I suggest you resist. Don’t OBEY.

We live in a world of duality. There is always a side to take and a choice to make. As an Artist and a human with a steadily evolving mind, I create from my direct understanding, experience and ability. I investigate my environment, take inventory of my thoughts and feelings regarding that environment and thereafter generate a piece of work that reflects this research. For now, the most prominent vessel for this reflection is music.

For several years now, I have been a Recording Artist and more or less, a professional musician. Throughout my short career, I have been mostly lauded by those who know my work. Occasionally, I have been criticized in a negative way due to “under-developed” sound, irrational comparisons, and gross mis-categorization. Throughout my search for acceptance and stability, I’ve been told by so-called music aficionados that the “right” collaboration has yet to happen for me, as if I don’t know what’s right. I am still fairly obscure. No matter what I do at this point, I remain in a fish-bowl.

My entire body of work has been dissected and shelved by a very small group of people in a very short period of time. Despite my 30 years of existence on this planet, and, in essence, the whole spectrum of my status as a person and trajectory in life so far; ……….I am a “Chicago-based blues man” lost in a sea of music projects vying for the attentions of the industrial-commercial “powers that be”…..

and for what?


specifically……..resources to live as I please and gain a modicum of independence. I am fighting for the ability to grow naturally, in contrast to re-entering the realm of the Proletariat who are rendered largely expendable by the capitalist machines they operate. I am fighting against genre classification, racial/cultural stereotypes and demographic/socio-economic limitation.

So when a critic says “This one is good and That one is bad.” then this one gets the perpetual ass-pat while that one gets the frequent ass-kick.

Of course, the total injustice of the “whole shebang” can’t be blamed solely on critics, but they play a large part in the sterilization or “brain washing” of the average mind. They influence our choices like the news influences our perception of cultures in other countries. These days, the common man has gained some control in the media with the proliferation of blogs, but it all adds up to informational traffic when the blogs only recycle what they’ve heard. Investigation is “old news”. People would rather imbibe the irresponsible assessments of a few media marionettes than find out for themselves.

I’ve recently returned to my previous status as an independent musician. This decision was partially a response to the inherent congestion of being obligated to tailor my musical taste to fit the vague expectations of my benefactors and win the approval of a mass audience only to remain faced with the uncertainty of conventional success or failure. As such, my survival, my livelihood, is now, more than ever, directly dependent upon the music that I offer the world…..even if it is from a fish-bowl.

My newest musical/artistic offering is called Experiments In Time. It will be independently released on August 8th 2014.

I believe it is imperative to find the music for yourselves and listen. Do not attempt to find inconsistencies, because they don’t exist. From my perspective, I have created a complete collection of songs that resonate on a personal level. To criticize my work based upon your own preconceived notions of how things “should” be, then post it to the internet is like criticizing nature, which is ultimately fruitless. To allow the shallow, limited assertions of critics who write for popular music outlets, magazines and newspapers to influence how you feel is like complaining about the weather or cutting down a bunch of trees to build cheap houses. It’s like pouring radioactive waste directly into the ocean.

Rather let us discuss the colors, the moods and vibrations we feel regarding the creative/inspirational projects we are allowed to hear & see. Let us expound upon the reasons why we “like” or “dislike” something while remembering that the words we use to describe the feelings we experience are subjective and let us remain set apart from the lure of popular opinion.

Although I will not stop the critics and their nefarious cliquish counterparts from catering to the popular and the powerful by writing obnoxious, pompous drivel about things they don’t understand, I hope to, at least, promote pure, unadulterated expression with my own work for as long as I live.

I encourage you, whoever you are, to do the same.