Saturday, January 23, 2010

Know Thy Self

Lots of philosophies and spiritual paths speak of the importance of knowing yourself.  This can take a a very long time for some people and can be known in its basic form very soon by some. It is a process and depending on what you want out of life and what you think about what life is, you will find and get to know different aspects of yourself. It is truly a journey.

This of course affects our music making. Let's say all you want is a 'job.' Most conservatory players think that a job means only an orchestra job. So let's say you commit yourself to getting the 'job.'  What will you do to get it? How long will you wait to get it? How much will you practice to get it? What sacrifices will you make to get it?

NOTHING could have stopped me from wanting to be in an orchestra when I was growing up. I loved the literature, loved playing in orchestra and loved practicing. But the word 'job' never came into my mind. I wanted to be in what I thought would be a magical environment that dives into the meaning of the music and really works on it until 'IT' happens. I was too young to think about financial security or other 'adult' type things.. I just wanted to be 'IN' the music. I will also admit at that time I enjoyed the support of being recognized for my abilities.  Maybe that was young and naive. But that was the state of affairs for me. I realized very early on that this is not always the case for everyone especially when they get a little bit older.

I wrote something in a earlier blog post about the PMMP, the Professional Musicians Manufacturing Plant.  Many music conservatories and universities think of themselves that way. College is supposed to help us a get a job after all, right? And train us well to be competitive in the job market, right? In this formula, where does 'REAL' art have a place?  Or we could ask what kind of art is employable? Not all art is always marketable. That makes it very interesting and difficult for those people who need art for their own life's nourishment and expression, which is something a 'job' could never satisfy nor money ever buy.

It seems as though the 'artist' type of player needs to develop two arts.  One to get a 'job' in today's orchestral requirements, and the second to express other parts of themselves and/or other things. These are VERY, VERY different arts, yet for the serious artist  in the making, it is possible. I never thought they were different.  That was a rude wake up call when I found out that in many cases they are very different. It is so inspiring to see when they live as one in an artist.

Some teachers are really only interested in the students that will do anything it takes to get an orchestra job. That is not how I am. I want what the person says they want. If they only want to get into an orchestra and the mind set is 'perfect, perfect, perfect,' better to not study with me for I cannot be confined to that narrow bandwidth. That can really be a prison especially if the approach is obsessive with technical details and mostly physical in its orientation. I come from the thought that the human being has a huge spectrum of possibilities and talents. Developing a fine 'machine' is only one aspect.

The question comes down to: "Do you know what you want?" How can that truly be discovered if you do not "Know Thy Self."

1 comment:

Gabe Langfur said...

Beautiful post Norman.

I like to think about "making a life" rather than "making a living." And about expanding my own definition of personal success.

In my function helping players choose instruments at Shires, I often heard young players who could think of nothing to play except for orchestral excerpts. It makes me sad to think of it, because even the best and most satisfying excerpts are, by themselves, only fragments of music, not complete expressions - and there is so much more music out there to explore. Of course, the more complete a musical statement we can make with an excerpt the better...but I'm digressing.