Matthew Sigmon is an Atlanta area based artist whose creative range includes songwriting and recording in a variety of genres as well as graphic artwork and writing. He began making music with his wife, Julie B. Anderson, as high school sweethearts and first appeared on MTV in 1985 as part of the Illinois based rock band, The Basics, with their video Kids In The Street. Sigmon and Anderson went on to form the band Rain People, signing with Epic/CBS and released a self-titled debut album in 1989. Rain People received critical acclaim with the single and video Little Bit Of Time, and the album was selected as one of CD Review’s “Editor’s Choice – Year’s 25 Best” gaining international attention.
In 1990, Sigmon’s interest in ambient composition inspired the highly regarded 30-minute instrumental “Sleeping Through The Rain”, followed by additional titles in subsequent years. In the early 90’s, studio work and performances with guitarist Peter Stroud (Sheryl Crow, Don Henley) and drummer Sean O’Rourke (Sugarland) resulted in the album Touvaroon, with Sigmon’s first solo CD, One Opens Up, being released in 2006. In recent years, additional work as a broadcast technician (Olympics, NBA, NFL, MLB, FIBA) has allowed him to travel around the world.
With a growing focus toward exploring consciousness and awareness and challenging the limitations of conventional creative boundaries, Sigmon’s artistic exploits have become diverse finding expression in drawing, writing, music and video, and covering a spectrum that ranges from comedy to spirituality and philosophy. Along with Anderson, he currently operates Made-Up-Media, a creative production studio specializing in audio, video and graphics services.
I find the experience of living life as a human being extremely odd. The very fact I can even make such an observation is an excellent example of why that’s the case. The universe that produces us is a mysterious place indeed, and we’re the first species we know of that has both the desire and the ability to question, explore and try to understand it. But all these evolutionary achievements come at some kind of a price, and with every amazing capacity that develops, critical vulnerabilities follow in its wake. Go figure. As strange and ironic as this existential ride is on its own, the added twist of spending it as an artist is possibly the weirdest variation on the theme.
It doesn’t matter whether you get paid for your artistic efforts, be it a lot, a little or nothing at all. As far as the urge to create is concerned that’s entirely beside the point, and apparently it pretty much always has been. It’s not like our historical past is littered with complaints by ancient cave painters and log drummers that their intellectual property wasn’t being protected. There are no records of issued threats that if remuneration for their contributions wasn’t ensured, humanity would be doomed to evolve amidst unadorned rock walls and dance to the rhythm of silently rotting trees. No, if you’re a primate with the incessant urge to make stuff, there’s likely nothing you can do about it. Convenience, fairness, and financial success may or may not be part of your personal equation, but it doesn’t matter. You’re an artist. Congratulations and my condolences.
If you have such artistic inclinations, you may also find you’ve received a bonus bundle of those “critical vulnerabilities” I mentioned earlier. On one hand it’s our amazing cognitive and emotional sensitivities that generate the need and capacity to express ourselves in great symbolic detail. But the very same mechanisms working that bit of magic also increase the likelihood of potential pitfalls like paralyzing self-consciousness, pathological idealism, and a long list of other precarious mental tendencies. Yay. John Lennon’s take on it was, “Genius is pain,” and he also suggested that given the choice of being an artist or a fisherman, there was no contest at all, he’d rather be casting nets. You may or may not feel the same.
Since this is my first column for Audio Times, I thought it might be a good idea to throw some cards on the table up front. I’m like a lot of you in that I can’t help creating. But my personal take on it has a twist in that much of what I create is generated by a fascination with the fact that I’m driven to do so in the first place. This is not a narcissistic infatuation with myself I’m talking about, this goes way deeper than that, nothing personal, Matt. While many musicians spend their time trying to develop and enhance the quality of their work, a perfectly practical approach I admit, I’m still back stalking around the inspirational fountain wondering what it really is, why it’s there, where it comes from and how the hell it works.
What issues forth from that fountain, the creative impulse itself, does not care in any way what means or methods we employ to express it. I greatly appreciate the mastery of craft that some artists achieve, and I fully recognize the usefulness and value of excellent technical skills to whatever end they’re applied. But creativity is a primal and undomesticated process, the activity of an ineffable energy that can be petitioned to leave a record of its movement in works that we attempt to tame. The nuts and bolts of how that’s achieved are merely a vehicle, and we invite that energy to become our co-pilot as we move with it across the landscape of experience. With any luck, what results is an example of artistic expression that to one degree or another encodes the essence of its origination. And exactly what is that? It may be many things, but at its most fundamental level it is movement, specifically expansion, and that’s a dynamic with a very auspicious heritage.
Every genuinely creative act is a form of emergent expansion, and that impulse can be seen as a microcosmic version of the “original” event, the birth of the universe itself. Whether you subscribe to a religious account of the affair, the one science says likely occurred or some fusion of the two, all indications are that at some point there was nothing (at least nothing that falls within our current frame of reference), then something incomprehensible happened and suddenly, somehow, there was everything. The cosmos we see now is defined by endless variety, but its contents are bound together by the most profoundly basic of traits: everything is made of the same stuff that blasted its way into existence the moment the universe came into being, and like any creative work, the essence of its origin is encoded in its nature. This is as true for nebulae and solar systems as it is for you and your favorite guitar.
Because the Big Bang is almost completely beyond our capacity to fathom, most of us can only think of it hypothetically. It’s like a cosmological bedtime story about something so distant in terms of time and space and scale that while it may be captivating, it seems largely irrelevant. But the mystery of unaccountable emergence isn’t as extraneous as it might seem and can be witnessed at the core of your own creative activity any time you’re watching carefully enough to see it.
Things get dicey at the threshold of creation, and down in the thick of all that constructive chaos there’s a strange inverse proportion where peaks of performance can threaten to shake the entire structure apart. It’s not unlike our planet that continually recreates itself from the inside out through violent and spectacular eruptions. Our creative nature is the inner face of that primal impulse, an exquisitely complex manifestation of the very process by which everything comes into being. It’s breathtaking, it’s mesmerizing and not a timid affair.
It’s easy to see why highly creative people might choose to be different than they are if they had any say in the matter, but we don’t get to make that call for ourselves. You may feel it’s a blessing or a curse, or both, but if your nature is an artistic one, I suggest you embrace it. For that matter, why not pick it up and run with it? Because the truth is you’ve been dealt a particularly good front row seat capable of providing the most wondrous views of the greatest show there is, the only show there is, so do your best not to take it for granted. Pay very close attention. Now do the rest of us a favor and tell us what you see.