How the concept of genre is handled on artistic domains and what does it have to do with creativity?
Let’s start with music. Classical music and popular music have obvious distinctions: the performance and the product they generate, for instance. While the first one presents endless operas and philharmonic orchestras, the second one comes with 4-5 minutes songs and presentations with playback. The whole interaction with the audience is different; you’ll hardly see fans of a classical orchestra screaming and shouting histeracly, demanding some symphony from Beethoven “Give us the ninth!!”
But what if we come to some less distinct genres? Classic rock opposed to Hard Rock? Melodic Metal x Heavy Metal? We tend to get subtler differences between the bands, the fans, the music they play, the hairstyles, the t-shirts they sell, everything. More than performance and product, genres also play with the expectations of the public, the way they interact with the whole show. You put Metallica on a stage playing with an orchestra and some fans – specially those from the early years of the band – might find that weirdly soft and disturbing. You put Metallica playing lullabies – or Justin Bieber’s latest hit – and you might get a riot!
So what defines a genre? What makes a horror movie? What is the essence of a thriller paperback? There are many aspects that can be analysed to distinguish different genres. A noir film is usually about some detective trying to solve a murder or any other mystery, but many action movies use the same plot, perhaps with more car chase scenes, gunshots and explosions. Concrete poetry, for instance, stands out from modern poetry because of the way the words are displayed on the blank page, using the space and the typography to develop a meaning that would go along with the words.
Distinctions that separate close or distant genres are just rules or guidelines for creativity to be released. They are choices the artist make when he thinks about expressing himself. When creating something from scratch, from zero, the first thing on your list should be setting boundaries about what you actually want to do, to express, to make people feel when they see it. Do you want to express sorrow and grief? Do you want to make people cry, but give them hope at the end? Do you intend to make a movie about it? You might choose a drama or a horror style with these guidelines.
But these are the most obvious connections to make. Genres can be merged, broken. If you have a band with drums, bass guitar, electric guitar and a singer you might play rock roll with it. Maybe pop songs, with chorus and bridges. But what if you add an orchestra as Metallica did in 99, or Deep Purple in the 60’s? You have a fascinating way of mixing classical and popular music together. Also, if you get a quartet of string playing Metallica metal songs in cellos, you’re doing the same – for those who don’t know, someone already did it; a group called Apocalyptica!
Those are all considerations the artists come to think when they begin their creative process. Genres should not aprisionate anyone to any style. Far from that, they should be seen as a big pool of ideas for anyone interested in creating anything within any field of knowledge. Some of the most innovative artists have mixed genres successfully, enhancing the experience their fans had with art: The Beatles mixed rock and roll with indian music, Orson Welles mixed fiction with newscast, Tarantino mixed action movies with mangas.
That’s how, I believe, genres play their role within the creative process. What do you think?