Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Find Your Muse, Find Your Process

Forget everything you've read about in this series for the last month.

Art isn't about things you "would" or "should" do. It isn't about placing yourself in a mould, nor is it about following in anyone else's footsteps. It's not about conforming to the prevailing style, nor is it about recreating the past.

Often creating art means distancing yourself from others, disappointing others, finding new ways, viewing the past on your own terms, knowing what to keep and what to throw out.

I recall being told by a well-known composer that I would never have a career in new music because I paid too much attention to creating a beautiful sound at the piano. He was wrong. I also recall being told by a major piano teacher that I would never have a career if I didn't have a perfectly aligned hand position. She was wrong.

I know of operatic singers that have absolutely no interest in performing music written before 1900. I also have several friends who turned their back on classical music to find success in other musical genres. I have also worked with some who abandoned successful careers in more lucrative professions in order fulfill their dreams of learning how to play or sing classical music at a high level even if they had no hope of ever making a living at it.

There comes a time when musicians need to find the music that genuinely speaks to them, a creative process that is congruent with their way of being, and a method that works for them and them alone. If it is important to fulfill goals, create them. If it is important to work without fixed goals, abandon them. Create a toolkit of techniques that work, bearing in mind that many of them may need to be set aside until they are needed.

I will finish the series not with any platitudes, buzzwords, or clich├ęs, but with the video of Linkin Park's Numb, that shows how rage and rebellion can be the impetus that puts an artist on the path to creativity. Turn up the volume up for this one.

Linkin Park - Numb

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  1. Anonymous9:32 AM

    Wow, I think I needed that. That song has so much meaning for me. At my lowest point in high school, that was the song that got me through - the words were exactly what I was feeling. There's bits of it in my early uni years that touch on a nerve also, and at the moment, the demons that are telling me that I can't do it are not other people, but myself.

    Time for me to stop listening to myself, and start listening to the people who believe in me, and start believing in myself.

  2. It's been an excellent series, Chris, and I think a lot of people are (and should be!) grateful to you. It's reminded me of some things, and will be a great place to send my students on occasion.

    Could I make a suggestion? Why not pull them all together in a PDF file and have it prominently displayed? Could get it even wider circulation.

  3. Thanks for this encouraging message... I'm trying so hard to be patient with myself as I muddle my way through all these rabbit trails in my "art" - and the pressure to excel in an established category rather than to follow my own path is too much some days. Thanks for making it about music, and not about impressing everyone with being a great "classical pianist."

    Music. Art. Spirit. Life.