The Questions that Every Musician Must Ask
WHY, HOW and FOR WHAT PURPOSE?
I have a book that I keep coming back to and reading in bite-size pieces as it is a little heavy going sometimes. That book is “Everything Is Connected: The Power of Music” by Daniel Barenboim. Barenboim is a widely regarded conductor, pianist and musical thinker. One of the concepts in this book is that every choice you make musically impacts upon every other musical aspect and the listener’s perspective. It’s an incredible idea, thus the title: “Everything is Connected”.
As he unpacks this idea he talked about a pianist who plays a sheet of music and follows every little direction in regards to performance instructions and dynamics, but doesn’t know why they are doing so. He calls this an sin of omission. His reasoning being that a musician who follows the letter of the law, ultimately neglects the spirit in which those letters came about from.
In our travels and pursuits as musicians, I think one of the healthiest ablilties to have is the ability to question. Not a condesending interrogation, but a child-like “What’s That?”. The child-like investigation of the status quo can be massively rewarding. As this thinking, not only allows you to imitate, but to understand the core of the message, so as to create your own expression, not merely a mimicry of things you learnt in music lessons.
Music, after all, is too big to be confined to the few years you did in High School and/or Higher Education. Music belongs to the family of knowledge where the depth hasn’t been found yet. No one knows how deep this well is just yet. This mystery is part of the magic of music. Music has a certain attractiveness, being both attainable and beyond our grasp all at once.
What now do we do?
Question everything you’ve every heard. Question everything you’ve ever loved to play. Why does it stir you? How does it do that? Why did Beethoven use a subito piano there? What purpose did the first chord of “A Hard Day’s Night” serve? You don’t get closer to answers without questions. But once you do have answers, or partial answers, you know have equipped yourself with an edge, an advantage, a perspective that never existed before. And i promise you, it will make you a more informed musician. You’ll start to join the conversation with peers further up the scale of musicianship.
But most of all: you will experience music much deeper than before. Deeper and deeper, as long as you commit to a life of questions.