DOI: 10.14704/nq.2016.14.2.955

David Bowie: Transience and Potentiality

Ashley Whitaker


In this paper, I argue that, in particular, the avant-garde visuals in musician David Bowie’s performance acts and the frequently experimental nature of his catalogue of work throughout his music career serve to inspire fans to overcome feelings of existential anxiety by offering a platform wherein those fans can safely remain ensconced in that anxiety alongside Bowie and explore absurdity as fellow travelers of life. A recent study conducted by Sharman and Dingle (2015) supports the view that therapeutic potential of music in the rock genre goes against the commonly accepted ideal that heavy music typified in rock acts as catalysts for negative emotions, such as general anxiety or aggression. Bowie’s penchant for reflecting the world around him – as encompassed especially in the lyrical content of the song and it’s subsequent music video that showcases a 10 minute runtime and breathtaking visuals – is the key element of why music is not only vital as a human-created art form, but a critical venue wherein the existentialist can mirror his or her world and inspire the layperson to do the same. That echoing of the human situation through art, I suggest, is precisely what Camus meant about remaining present with the absurdity of life and utilizing an alchemical container like a song to channel the resultant anxiety derived from understanding that absurdity, and transforming that anxiety into a feeling of serenity, and even possibly delight.


David Bowie; existentialism; philosophy; neuroticism; music

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The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest

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