Attribute #5: In earlier blogs, we have seen that a complete contemporary musician will have a meaningful purpose for his work (Attribute #1). He is open to cultural influences, learning from those who have come before him (Attribute #2). He is willing to embrace the creativity of other contemporary artists (Attribute #3), and he is able to both improvise as well as read music (Attribute #4). In addition to these, the complete musician/artist must be willing to participate in new innovation, utilizing and expanding current tools available to him.
Every society and time period has its own ‘cutting edge’ innovation, whether it is artistic, philosophical, governmental or industrial. Perhaps the greatest innovation in our modern day is the advent of electronic technology, i.e. the computer (and internet/communication possibilities). It continues to shape not only the development of music and art, but also its dissemination around the world.
The ‘stage’ an artist performed upon didn’t change much from the Greek amphitheater to the Wagner opera house (representing about two-thousand years), but all of that rapidly changed just in the last (less than) one hundred years. Music’s ‘stage’ has moved from the concert hall, to radio and television, then to the recording industry and finally to the home studio via You Tube and the internet. With much of the world embracing technological interactivity, the Internet is now music’s stage, and its performers are the world’s population. Talent and skills developed upon past ‘stage’ paradigms may or may not have a role in success. Rather, it’s about innovation and creativity.
Here’s a short list of some of the areas easily available to the musician/artist today: 1) Multi-track recording, 2) MIDI Sequencing, 3) Sampling, 4) Looping, 5) Micro-tonality, 6) Synchronization to other media (lighting, video, etc.). This is just on the creative side of things. There’s another arsenal of tools on the distribution/marketing side: 1) Pod-casts, 2) Forums, 3) Blogs, 4) Facebook, 5) You Tube, 6) I-Tunes, 7) Personal web-sites, 8) Digital distribution in so many ways it’s almost ridiculous to try to enumerate them.
One can become so involved in the technological tools, however, that he can lose objectivity. This is a real danger for today’s electronically savvy artist. I believe it is critically important for the artist (as shown in Attribute #1) to have a firm grasp of history so that he can objectively navigate his future.
I had a conversation with a co-worker one day, as I was making a photocopied ‘archive’ of a report. When he asked me what I was doing, I said, “I’m all about archiving. If you don’t know where you’ve been, then you don’t know where you’re going.” His smart reply to me was, “…unless you have a map.” But a map does no good if one doesn’t know his location on it!
Knowing history, combined with a comprehensive knowledge of currently available tools will give the artist an awareness of ‘where he is on the map’.
It’s not good to be stuck in the past, but it’s equally detrimental to be so immersed in contemporary ideologies that one loses objectivity. When the artist loses objectivity, he also loses direction and motivation. Objectivity, however, can be regained by reviewing history.
Here’s a simple example of what I’m trying to say. When I begin writing a song, I generally have a ‘seed’ idea that just came to me. It could be one short phrase, or a measure of music. When I begin to think of that phrase over and over again, something miraculous happens: it grows out of itself! I wonder what I will do next. I might even get a little nervous that I don’t know what to do (there are so many possibilities). But then I remember to go back to the beginning and think about the material that’s already there. When I do this, yet another miracle happens: it grows out of itself again!
Through this process of ‘organic growth’, all of my creativity comes. It comes by thinking about what has already been given to me. The same is true for the artist, as he endeavors to discover his destiny and future. If he feels lost or overwhelmed by all the possibilities, he should go back and review his artistic roots. He should study historic examples of others, seeing how they overcame unique obstacles in their day, as this can directly relate to current struggles he may be facing. (The tools of today are new, but human nature is the same!)
“The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way.” (Prov. 14:8)
Having a secure sense of artistic direction is the best foundation to stand upon as the artist forges ahead with the newest and latest technological tools, establishing new creativity and artistic paradigms.
Who knows, if he's successful, perhaps he too will one day be studied.