Love and Affection: Ode on a Sunny Day, a Song and Hope

I am not in love,
But I’m open to persuasion

With the launch of Apple’s streaming music platform there has been much talk about the value of music. Many musicians are worried at the rise of streaming culture as it will impact on their earnings and ability to fund making more music. Music is more than commerce and more than a recording. Culture is not just a thing of the present. It is a web that spans time, links people together and defines us through our tastes.

I recently found a video of Joan Armatrading performing Love and Affection at Glastonbury in 2008. The performance is on the Jazz/World Stage on a sunny day, and it has stuck with me. This captured moment from seven years ago has become my version of Keats’ grecian urn.

This four and a half minute video sends me spinning off into a web of thoughts, looking back to 1976 when it was recorded, seeing the contrast between the Joan Armatrading then and the woman performing the song 32 years later, looking at the resonance the song has on the audience in that sunny field in Somerset and seeing them as a visible indicator of the power of the song and the woman. Continue reading Love and Affection: Ode on a Sunny Day, a Song and Hope

To Read Music or Not: Musical Tribes and Approaches

Music is like a mountain. There are many approaches to the summit (that can never be reached), and it seems impossible to view the other approaches with all that mountain in the way.

George Crumb, The Magic Circle of Infinity (Moto Perpetuo) from Makrokosmos
George Crumb, The Magic Circle of Infinity (Moto Perpetuo) from Makrokosmos

To declare my viewpoint, I am a conservatory educated musician (reader). I started my musical journey meeting Mister Crotchet in school piano lessons (reader) before going on to become kinetically musical playing punk drums and bass guitar (non-reader).

Nowadays I seem to be identified as a classical composer type and firmly in the reader camp. I run into musicians or their parents who suspect my training must have restrained as well as trained my mind. These folks seem to feel defensive about not reading music and sometimes launch into complicated and passionate defences of this approach. I see this same dialogue played out online too and I think it is worth exploring a little here.

The TL;DR version is that ultimately music is sound used to communicate. The multiplicity of possible ways to understand and communicate instructions for creating that sound are decidedly subordinate to the sounds and their effects. Whatever works for you is great, but understanding some of the implications of the path(s) you choose to climb the mountain is useful. Continue reading To Read Music or Not: Musical Tribes and Approaches

Artistic Freedom and the Path to Happiness

MusicalCherubsIf you could do anything what would you do? This question is an interesting thought experiment particularly for artists and musicians. Derek Sivers has posed it with some interesting commentary on his blog in the form, What if you didn’t need money or attention?

He poses this question from the perspective, if you needed nothing in your life what would you do? Through looking at two example groups he raises some common issues. Entrepreneurs and musicians both need attention and money and both can become focussed on attaining those losing their spark or purpose in the process.

Money

For me sustaining my family has long been a reason (or excuse) to postpone making music. The uncomfortable relationship between art and commerce is well documented. Commercial art is frowned upon and poverty is worn as a badge of pride by some and held up as a mark of failure by others.

In the West we live in a society that produces such abundance of wealth that nobody need want for anything, but we have adopted money as a method of ascribing value to people and their activities. Bankers are more valuable than nurses, teachers and even artists.

Art in our society is a commodity and its value is specified by demand. This conditions artists to seek attention for both reward and validation. Continue reading Artistic Freedom and the Path to Happiness