Greets friends. I am riding the train across Germany on a gorgeous August morning. Now I’m just passing Bonn – Beethoven’s hometown.
This past week I taught a small workshop with 6 attendees. A few of the students were semi-pro players. Over dinner one night, a very interesting discussion arose with the students.
They were very passionate and thoughtful listeners and lovers of guitar music. Not to mention they were all very smart guys; some were doctors and scientists as their full time jobs.
“Don’t forget about being a true artist” one of them told me. “Some musicians compose completely their own material.” Issued as a soft warning after attending my concert which had many many cover songs. Another told me “Maybe, don’t start your concert so strong, but start quietly and build up.”
This post is neither to defend or attack anyone’s position or ideas…I found the discussions very thought provoking. It’s always good to revisit past approaches and see if they still apply.
This churned up a lot of thoughts for me, as a composer, performer, entertainer and as a musician who wants to entertain and therefore get booked, play concerts and live off my guitar work.
All professional musicians to some degree need to do something to survive, whether it’s music related work or not. Also, most of us musicians are envisioning an ideal audience whom we want to please with our music – whether they are our families, teachers, fans , critics or whomever. The want of survival and approval…here are the 2 big human issues, intertwined with music, once again.
I am not saying that just “working” is the most important thing….however once my tummy growls and my rent needs to be paid, the “idealism” of art starts looking a little pale! Mozart, Bach and Michelangelo all worked as artfully as they could, within the confines of doing a good job for their bosses.
Chances are that if you do something that a lot of people don’t like, your art could become a “hobby” and your tummy will get filled from income form other work that serves people.
I am not making a judgement call….just stating the fact. Our tummies growl, every day. Whether we provide music or not, we must still provide value in some way to someone.
My “art” is to play with the best groove, touch and sound that I can, and to do it with confidence and give pleasure to a listener. It also gives me pleasure to find “counterpoint” (more than one part) on the guitar in ways that help bring across tunes one would not normally think are possible on a single guitar.
The “what” of my music leans toward cover songs, and it has helped bridge a gap between me and an audience that may not have heard of me before. The “how” leans towards doing it as best as I can.
And…if I can play guitar for an hour and delight an audience, that’s my art – the crafting of that entire one hour experience. This includes what I say, what I wear and how I make people feel. It ain’t just pickin’! (at least for me…)
- If a cover tune makes it easier to communicate, is it still art?
- Is entertaining with showmanship art?
- Should we require that an audience have the patience to listen to hushed, whispery introspective tones?
- Should we do music that is easy for them to tap their toes?
- Who should work harder – the performer or the audience?
- Will they listen intently to something they’ve never heard? Should they?
- Or will they want to sing along to a familiar tune?
- If an artist discovers a solution that works to entertain and repeats it for other audiences is it less valid?
- Who are you playing music for?
My answer is – there is no answer, there is more than one way to do it.
What do you think? Comment below, please.