Why Badminton Racquet Rules by Nathan Lawr (2015)

 In Why This Rules
Badminton Racquet

Badminton Racquet

My favourite kind of art scares the shit out of me. It terrifies me. It chases me in my dreams. It pounds around inside my head, drives me to a special kind of insane. It literally “blows my mind,” as if something snapped in there, broke down some little barrier, forged a new neural pathway and changed me forever. Art is not a salve for my fears about the world. It is the forum in which I meet with them, wonder about them, maybe conquer a few. As I see it, there are two kinds of art. The kind that hugs us, makes us feel safe, nostalgic. This kind of art, what I’ll call Cozy Art, makes us feel secure, affirms our place in the world. It makes us feel like we belong. For many people, their interaction with art begins and ends with this kind: another Eagles concert; anything by Diana Krall; Fast and Furious 7; the Lion King musical; art that is not necessarily of poor quality but simply void of anything resembling an intellectual or emotional challenge for its audience.

Then there is the other kind, what I’ll call Confrontational Art, which scares us, unsettles us and forces us to consider the political and ideological things that structure our lives. This kind of art pushes back against our ‘rules’ and tests new ground upon which to express and contemplate our experiences: Pasolini’s Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom; Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring; Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew and On the Corner to name only a few.

A healthy human society really needs both kinds of art. But not necessarily in equal measure. There is generally far more Cozy Art than Confrontational Art. The vast majority of people have no desire for that sort of disruption in their lives. They simply want to be caressed and amused by the art they encounter. Therefore Confrontational Art gets less attention, less cash, fewer eyes and ears taking it in. And because of this, the vanguard becomes an area in which only the more courageous and dedicated artists choose to work. And this is good news for all of us. We rely on people willing to break some rules. Miles Davis’ controversial forays into modal harmonic structures and long-form funk improvisations caused uproar in jazz communities, angering purists and confounding practitioners, but it ultimately paved the way for a wave of artists whose entire output was based on this new approach.

Someone breaking a rule, like a Rosa Parks or a Mahatma Ghandi, usually sparks the most revolutionary of social changes. Breaking the rules is ultimately good for society because it forces a conversation on what is permissible. The moment a rule is broken, we must gauge the severity of the offense, what, if any, sort of punishment is warranted, and whether or not the rule in question is still relevant. This constant tension is supposed to ensure the project of civil society cannot stagnate. It doesn’t really matter what the answer is, if we do not ask the question, no social change is possible and stultification and totalitarianism result.

This is why Badminton Racquet rule.

They’ve taken the fetters of categorization and buried them under the outhouse of human culture. Unashamedly unadulterated. Kaleidoscopic and mesmerizing. Loud. Terrifying. And absolutely totally necessary. Why? Because their unhampered sonic explorations, seemingly unmoored but grounded structures, sticky flirtations with pop, and crazed passages of distorted abandon are not only brave musical and artistic choices, they are forays into the unknown. And the only way we will solve any of the problems facing us today is to venture off the known highways into the deep, dark woods of another way. By Badminton Racquet being Badminton Racquet, the unknown becomes known, the uncertain becomes certain. The broken rule becomes the new rule. And all of us benefit. Badminton Racquet rule because, in scaring the crap out of us, they make our community better, our city better, and ultimately our world better. I know they’re just a band and they probably aren’t setting out to be revolutionary. But this is how it works. One things leads to another. Art and politics will always be connected no matter the proclivities of the artists. So we must champion all kinds risk-takers, of revolutionaries in society and in art because in the end, each reflects who we really are. And who we really are is always up to us.

Nathan Lawr is a musician who performs under his own name, the leader of the mighty Minotaurs and frequently works with a number of great musicians, including Jim Guthrie.

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