Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Between Engagements

The internet, being a brilliant personal public relations machine, gives the illusion that, in spite of the downturn in the ability for many musical institutions to sustain themselves financially, the world is abuzz with musical activity and full of people with inspired and active musical lives. It also gives the general impression (if you read people's web pages and profiles), that many musicians are actually able to make good livings as soloists, composers, and as members of chamber music ensembles.

I wish it were true, but I think that the reality of the matter is that a large number of performing musicians spend a lot of time "between engagements." I also imagine that most of the pieces that have been written by composers who are still living remain, for a multitude of reasons, unheard. I guess, with recorded music being the way so much music reaches people's ears, being "between engagements" is the way far too many performing musicians spend their time.

The collective array of professionally-made, high-quality websites for performing musicians and composers makes me feel intimidated much of the time. And when I'm not being intimidated, I feel a bit jealous. Why does everybody seem to be having more fun than I'm having?

Now that musical public relations can be controlled by individual musicians and groups who are not affiliated with a management organization (though there are impressive management websites "out there"), a good deal of a musician's "quality" is measured by how well s/he sells his or her "product." Sometimes this display really digs its way into my (already fragile) sense of self worth. I find that when I am "between engagements," I have to sit myself down and remind myself why I do what I do.

Here, for my personal affirmation (and for your information), is a short list of why I do what I do.

1. I love to play and practice the violin, the viola, and the viola d'amore.

2. I love to play chamber music, which also means I love to play with other people.

3. I love to play concerts and to share what I love about the music I'm playing with unsuspecting people, who are sometimes strangers.

4. I love to write music because of the expressive surprises it offers. I also love to make unique and beautiful things from scratch. The whole process of composition feels like magic to me. It allows me to use my intuition and to draw on a whole lot of unconscious experiences, both musical and otherwise.

5. I love the idea of sharing what I write with people who get enjoyment out of playing it, and I love the idea of people using what I write for particular situations and circumstances; like friends being able to play or sing together because they finally have a piece that matches their combination of instruments.

6. I love to learn new music (particularly old music that is new to me), and I love to have all my preconceptions challenged (and sometimes shattered) by hearing or playing a piece of music.

7. I love to teach because I love to share what I have learned. Nothing I have learned or figured out becomes real to me until I have passed it on to someone else.


T. said...

Love your love-to list! Reminds me of how much I love creative expression, playing music with other people, and teaching.

Anonymous said...

Excellent points. I'm a perfect example... a composer who's been having some great success on paper but in reality is in such crippling financial straits I can barely work or think. Based on external presentation it looks like I'm doing GREAT...