Thursday, October 31, 2013

Our Gift

Wayne Shorter: "what do you give as a present to life - in celebration of life - when life has it all? ...I would say that the effort of being original is like: "thank you!"." 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Art or Graft?

The ability to effectively express ourselves through an aural, visual, or language-based medium makes us Artists.

The role of Art in society is to represent in an abstract and visceral way the moment of time we live in, like a snapshot of the current state of our collective cultural journey. As conduits of this representation Artists have to be both hypersensitive to the momentary state of our environment, and absolutely truthful in our expression of it's effect on us.

I believe that the majority of us begin our journey in music (or any other art form) driven by a passion to express ourselves through it. What happens to those of us who decide to make it central to our lives is that in making it our "career" we need to make a living from it. This creates a conflict of interest.

The artist's struggle has eternally been the quest to reach an audience sufficient to provide the means to sustain one's life without compromise to one's expression. Unfortunately the realities of earning a living will often mean that we find ourselves reducing our expression in order to broaden our appeal. This will inevitably mean that we are using the skills developed to express ourselves, instead to fulfill an existing demand within the commercial market.

If, during our period of intense study and growth - normally during our teens an early twenties - we focus on the highest possible development of our art, we can emerge into the market with an already highly developed expression. In doing so we give ourselves the advantage of perhaps finding a niche within that market doing the thing we do best - and enjoy most. At worst we will be doing something on the right track which will get us there in time.

If, however, we focus our education on preparing us for the practicalities of the existing "industry" we actually become part of the problem. Where the modern take on education in the arts often fails is that it directs our focus towards developing skills specific to a job description. Practical from some points of view perhaps, but in my view pointless. This will be the reality you face anyway when you emerge into the market to offer your services. If you arrive with all your creative guns blazing, you will very likely be able to choose where you sit.

To be able to do what we are passionate about and earn good money should be the goal for all intelligent humans. Follow your passion and skills develop along the way to make you good at what you do; you will then be able to set a price to your product. Follow good money and you will probably hate what you do.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Ready To Learn?

Why do adults learn so much more slowly than children?

Could it be because adults start out from a position of already knowing something?

It's not a radical suggestion that the most valuable lessons in life will require you to completely let go of what you already know.

As a teacher I lead many horses to water, but I can't make sure that they all quench their thirst. Not because they are not thirsty, but because they all assume they know how to do it already.

The hardest students to get through to are the ones who come with a set of established values and expect me to just tweak them so that they work better. Most of the time the things that hold us back are deep faults stemming from a fundamentally wrong approach that is hidden from us.

A simple solution is to be like a child. Open your eyes and ears and take in every detail. Don't assume you know the end of the sentence because the beginning sounds familiar. Stay always in observation mode, even when you begin to participate.

Presented with something completely new, a child will take it all in without resistance and investigate every nuance, thereby understanding the thing as a new entity without judgement. An adult will immediately look for comparative reference points in their own experience in order to categorize, thereby reducing the revelation to a minimum and challenging their understanding of the world as little as possible. If they can't categorize it, they become afraid and defensive as their world is based on a set of established but fragile rules.

We are all in a hurry to grow up. To be the one who knows what's what. But the world is vast, and unless we travel constantly in a state of humility and generosity, speaking the language of every place we visit, we can't assume to know very much at all. If we live in a very cloistered, safe environment and have few real hardships in life, we know next to nothing. Accepting you know nothing is the power of growth.

If you have found someone whom you believe can teach you something, you owe it to yourself to throw away all assumptions and accept the way that is being shown you until it is completed. Anything less is a waste of everybody's time.

You can't add to a cup that is already full.