“If the commercial system demands that you constantly degrade your integrity in order to achieve success, then you’re basically buying into transitory fans who like you because you’re doing something stupid today.”Billy Corgan
As many people know, Billy Corgan and Smashing Pumpkins burst on the scene with their first album, Gish, in 1991, which shot to the top of the charts, which is where the Pumpkins remained for a decade, all the harder in that critics considered them “sophisticated,” “complex,” “with great depth,” words usually reserved for artistic success and commercial failure. Billy and the Pumpkins achieved both, as did his next group, Zwan….
In this inside look at this own artistic unfolding, Billy discusses why he formed, and then dissolved, the Pumpkins, and likewise Zwan, as his own artistic crest (or leading edge or avant garde) moved forward. He and Ken talk about the leading edge of consciousness evolution and why artists are so often riding that edgeâ€¦ hence, the avant garde.
In this video, The Meaning of the Avant Garde, Ken summarizes the notion of the avant garde and what it means in terms of evolutionary unfolding. Serj Tankian, lead singer of System of a Down, put it this way in another dialogue: “When I am creating, it’s not me but the universe that is creating through me.” Similar sentiments have been voiced by Michael Crichton, Saul Williams, Alex Grey, Ed Kowalczyk, Stuart Davis, and other integrally informed (and avant garde) guests on Integral Life.
To be on the crest of one’s own unfolding consciousness is not to guarantee creativity, or greatness, or even talent; it is, however, necessary if not sufficient for such. Since dissolving Zwan, Billy has been experimenting with a succession of avenues for creating new forms of music. He has quietly recorded new solo material, and is planning on re-entering the studio this month to record what he and Ken refer to in the dialogue as the “futuristic rock record.” Billy also plans on experimenting with small groups of audiences who can participate in a type of co-creation of music—”I’m still working on ways to integrate the opinion or the feeling of the audience into its own living art.”
Whether or not any of these experimental forms succeed is not the point; the point is exactly as Billy says in this dialogue: “Even how I approach composition, I’m going at it from a different angle from how I would normally do it. Different process, different results.” And the different process is surfing the leading edge, whether you wipe out or not.
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About Billy Corgan
Billy Corgan is an American musician best known as the lead vocalist and guitarist in the alternative rock band Smashing Pumpkins.
About Ken Wilber
Ken Wilber is a preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. He is an internationally acknowledged leader, founder of Integral Institute, and co-founder of Integral Life. Ken is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative world philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”.