What musicians can learn from writers
Who is your favourite writer? Is he or she your favourite because of his or hers ability to plagiarise other writers? Or because of the books he or she has read throughout his or her life? About the ability to write the same book over and over again changing a few words at a time?
Think about that. This is how music is being experienced in our modern western society, especially considering classical music tradition. Your favourite writer has surely read a lot of books that he or she liked and has sunk in influences like a sponge while creating his or her own style. However the end product is a new (written) composition with a unique style. That is quite often not the case with (classical) music.
Understanding history, preserving tradition and doing research and understudies is important in grasping and adapting wide concepts. One can draw an analogy with a children learning a language – they imitate until they start producing. With time, as they grow, they start to master the skill and are able to use nuances such as sarcasm, expression and tone texture. But what they produce is new and not repeated unless they work for certain news agencies from the other side of the pond.
If we now take that analogy back to (classical) music we are at a stage where a child is re-learning to talk the same sentences over and over. With time the number of sentences is increased but the algorithm of creating their own sentences is not used. So they only talk about what they have talked about before. And that is restricting imagination which is detrimental to any type of art form.
Classical musicians should take a lesson from jazz musicians and transcribe classical (melody) notation with the underlying chord structure of the composition. And then understand how people not only composed but also how they improvised at the time. Then one will begin to see patterns and thus create the ability to create them as well. This ability to compose (improvise slowly) or improvise (compose on the spot) is something that can connect different genres with each other and also can open the door to musicians from different genres to cross-play with each other. The more people learn to improvise, compose and create the better it is for all musicians. Long gone will be the days where jazz musicians and classical musicians act like they are the music equivalent of Detroit’s Bloods and Crips gangs.
Here are three things that I think are crucial to any kind of art but especially music. A good artist understands the past, expresses the present and influences the future. The first one (understanding the past) is the one that is done the most – you study, analyse, copy and learn (music) in many ways. The second one (expressing the present) is the turning point to even get to the third point. You have to be able to create and most importantly write, record and perform what you create regularly. If that does not happen then the third part (influencing the future) is impossible. And the saddest part is that history will wipe off all your efforts from the first part if the second part is not done. With new material you might influence the future in a day or a century , it doesn’t really matter how influential you are today. The most impost thing is to have an artistic footprint left in time.
Back to all you bookworms. For every famous great writer there are thousands of people that are just as intelligent and just as talented or even more. But without an artistic footprint they are forgotten and in a sad way are eventually meaningless through history. So a tip to all artists caught up with learning scales, arpeggios, voicings, songs and covers : learn to create and compose and have an artistic footprint. This is what you can learn from the writers!
(c) 2018 Sibil Yanev