Arts

Pegg is speaking to truth and denialism through the power of music. Image: Aleta Karstad/Larry Pegg.

Pegg’s music advocates for the power of truth in the COVID-19 era

The events of the last year have given most of us the chance to explore big ideas in a new wealth of time: what is truth? How about legacy? How do those in positions of power navigate truth on behalf of a larger populace, and where do we as a society go from here?

Local Ottawa musician Larry Pegg has been asking these questions and more while making his music. His most recent project, #InThisShitTogether, addresses what Pegg thinks is “glaringly obvious”: that we’re all, for better or worse, going through these crises together as a society. 

Pegg’s use of the word “shit” in the project’s title is somewhat tongue-in-cheek: “it’s part of the lexicon of our times. There’s bullshit, or lies, and consumerist shit; it’s what the leaders won’t say.”

“We’re in a powerful historical moment right now, right in the collision of the political world and a pandemic. The music just comes to you.”

Pegg’s musical journey has largely been motivated by a search for truth; truth is a common motif throughout the lyrics and music video of #InThisShitTogether. 

The song is country-inspired, and that’s on purpose: “country music is three chords and the truth,” says Pegg (though, he joked later, #InThisShitTogether is, indeed, five chords and hopefully the truth).

One quote in particular has resonated with Pegg as he’s searched for truth in the media and in his own music-making: “Veritas Filia Temporis” in Latin, or “truth is the daughter of time.” Per Pegg, “truth evolves throughout history, and sometimes that evolution is into myth — falsehood.” 

One need look only as far as soon-to-be-ex-President Donald Trump to know that ‘truth’ in political media is an idea that can be stretched according to ideology; it’s not absolute, and is subject to tampering.

Pegg’s reverence for the “daughter of time” maxim extrapolates into the women leading the way to social and political change: “Malala, Emma Gonzalez, the women of Black Lives Matter — they’re the daughters of time, and they’re existing now.”

“I’ve been emotionally swept away by the women of history we’re able to witness in this moment. I’ve attended marches, rallies, protests, to stand in awe of their strength.”

Pegg isn’t immune to the pessimism of the times: “it’s a balance of worry against hope,” and his search for truth has run up against the realities of denialism and conspiracy in the contemporary world. But Pegg has hope and respect, for example, for American vice-president-elect Kamala Harris — yet another daughter of time whose legacy hovers in the hands of fate.

When asked to break down ‘truth’ into a simple definition, Pegg offered that it’s “a deep connection to our environment, the acceptance of fragility and harshness.”

“It’s the pursuit of meaning in our lives — not necessarily happiness, but pure meaning.”

Denialism in current times (the QAnons and Proud Boys of the world, for instance) has acted as a real roadblock to achieving that pure meaning. 

“We live in a time of collective mass hysteria,” says Pegg, “a hysteria that simultaneously comes from places of anger and of love.” 

“Everyone can feel right about what they want to feel right about. There’s no shortage of echo chambers in the age of the Internet.”

With his music, Pegg wishes to put love closer to the centre of the truth-searching experience: “buying guitar strings is an expression of love for humanity,” and those guitar strings can jointly bring people together while still providing the musical backdrop for layered, nuanced political critique. 

Pegg’s an optimist despite tremendous personal loss — his late daughter is another daughter of time for whom he creates his music — and he feels there is hope despite the overwhelming denialism of our times.

“Keep your heads high, and remember the strength of your higher education,” says Pegg. “Hold your search for truth sacred no matter your discipline, and don’t be discouraged by denialism.”

More information on Pegg’s work can be found here.