Getting Different

Art doesn’t develop in a Darwinian sense. We don’t get better and better; we get different. We tend to think of progress in the scientific way, but it doesn’t apply to art. The only way to discover your true original voice — and there is infinite possibilities for originality nowadays — is by being honest with yourself and striving to write the best music you can, and not think about what category the critics might put you in or if this might start a new trend.  Lera Auerbach, Composer, Poet, Pianist in an interview with the Detroit Free Press, May 30, 2010

I’m at something of a crossroads in my musical life.  I won’t be playing in my church handbell ensemble next year (for reasons which are too complex to discuss), which means all my participation in church music will be at an end.  I  have enjoyed accompanying for the middle school, and will continue to do so, because it’s quite user friendly in terms of time and demand,  and in general an all around enjoyable experience.

But I feel as if my musical “career” is petering out, and I’m not ready for that to happen.  I don’t want to let everything I’ve learned in the past decade and a half simply go to waste.  On the contrary, I’d like to expand on the musical and personal knowledge I’ve gained and continue to challenge myself in other musical venues.

Reading the interview with Lera Auerbach, a young Russian composer, poet, and pianist, in this morning’s Free Press, I was struck by her comment about artistic development.  “We don’t get better and better; we get different.”  She was referring to her evolution as a composer, but I think it applies to any creative process.  Her idea is in keeping with the thoughts that have been swirling around in my mind of late, at least in regard to my musicianship.   I’d like to “get different” – not join another bell group or find another accompanying gig, but something completely and totally new.  Because I think “getting different” is vital to “getting better.”  By exploring different aspects of our art, we can’t help but become better artists.

Auerbach made a life changing decision for herself when, at the age of 17, she felt she was at a “dead end.”  Upon the completion of her first America tour, she decided to defect.  “I had taken in everything Russian culture had to offer. I was at a dead end. I needed to be in New York, in a global city, with exposure to everything. I was hungry for it.” 

Obviously, there’s nothing so drastic in my future, but I recognize that same hunger for something new. 

If I’m honest with myself, as Auerbach advises, I know I must be involved in a group, because that’s how I function best.  Even if the group is only two (but preferably more), I need someone sharing the spotlight with me.  I also know I want to explore a more contemporary avenue, something that involves innovative new arrangements and ensembles.  There may not be a “category” for the type of music I want to do, but that’s alright – according to Auerbach, categories don’t matter.  And I know that I have to perform.  Strange as it may seem from one who was once paralyzed by stage fright, performance is the key to a satisfying musical experience for me. 

SO – there are my parameters for change.  I have the summer to start mulling over how to make it happen, to begin looking for those shooting stars of opportunity that sometimes fall through my galaxy. 

How about you?  Are you looking for ways to “get different” in your art or in your life?




11 thoughts on “Getting Different

  1. First of all, I love the new look. So appropriate! Second, yes, “getting different” is appealing. But how? Food for thought, that. Thanks.

  2. Becca, you always speak to exactly what is “going on.” Not playing for the church, which validates your musical talent and keeps you going in it’s way so you don’t lose it is a big step, a leap of faith. Yet it feels so good to stretch and take up something new, even if that new “thing” is undefined.

    And then there’s the excitement of it! What will it be? When will you fall upon it? And in the meantime, you can sit at the piano and play anything you like while you wait to discover the next “gig.” You are free to tyr things and experiment without deadline.

    I hope you keep us current on what’s next. A musical group? a band? a musical salon?

    I am looking quietly, constantly, for new things with writing (and I’m not even that good at it.) I disbanded the writing workshop that I hosted and headed for eight years. I have put a hold on writing queries for my freelance work because there aren’t enough hours in the day, though I stick with some editors for whom I write, but I am restless.I eye the traditional publishing world with some skepticism, as I do the “self publish” companies. It’s a swirl, ongoing, fun to think about and yet, I have not yet hit on the project/activity, “thing”, not exactly, that will be the next step in this writing world. In fact, I’m a mess when choosing between journal writing or blogging! Still, there’s a glimmer of an idea. All this to say, I see/hear/feel what you’re talking about.

    • It is a “swirl” and “fun to think about.” I smiled when you mentioned a “band” because this week I’m actually doing that! The spring concert for the middle school where I accompany is a 50-60’s extravaganza, complete with costumes and choreography for the kids. It’s an all out Rock and Roll night, and we actually have a “combo” -drums, guitars, sax, and keyboard (of course!) We’re even getting t-shirts with our names on them. Maybe this will lead to something big!! LOL

  3. This is wonderful — I didn’t see that piece; didn’t pick up the paper and now I wish I had (thank goodness for online, though that just isn’t the same. But I think what she said rings very true for a lot of us. And really, think about it — McCartney didn’t stay a Beatle forever — he tried his hand at classical. And Sting has done more to bring attention to Elizabethan music than most. There’s the actor who turns to directing — and don’t tell me those “Dancing with the Stars” celebs are going back to their roots! Some may have more skill than others, but I suspect most of them want to do something new.

    I tend to go the opposite way — I do different so often, I’m not sure I ever do something so well as to attain excellence. Maybe in work. Maybe. (And that wasn’t my original career path, either!) And cooking, though I’m always learning. But certainly my art is all over the place, and so is my writing and just about everything else.

    I do know you will find it. Maybe not next week, but you will — because you will always be open. And isn’t that wonderful?

    • You’re exactly right, and it also goes back to the post I wrote a while back about hidden talents. We need to try different things sometimes in order to find new talents we didn’t know were there! Like some of those dancing celebs 😉

      I’m envious of your ability/opportunity to do different things. I tend to get stuck in ruts, because I’m drawn to the familiar and “safe.”

  4. Becca –

    I love this – “We don’t get better and better; we get different.” 

    Perhaps this is also the essence of what I wrote about in change vs. growth. This not losing anything on our journey. Growth is not about getting better and better, but being different. I often think about this when I watch my grandson of 6 months. His growing is not about losing anything, it is not about being better. It is about something entirely different.

    In the interview, what hit me was the word “move”. We are moved when a specific piece of music touches us.

    So this – to be moved, is this not also about being different?


  5. Hey Becca,

    I like the new theme! I have noticed that when we identify the essence of what we’re hoping to accomplish, in life, in art, the details work themselves out. I hope you are able to look back on this post months from now and find that your desire to “get different” has come to pass.

  6. The sentence that struck me the most in your entry is this:

    Strange as it may seem from one who was once paralyzed by stage fright, performance is the key to a satisfying musical experience for me.

    Somehow that’s the key to the “different” for me. I keep hearing whispers – “you ought to do a book”, “you ought to publish” – but the thought just leaves me cold.

    I’m beginning to suspect that blogging IS my “different”. I love the interaction, with readers responding and thoughts building on one another in the comments section. In a way, it’s writing as performance – I’ve never, ever thought of it that way, and I’ve never seen writing described as a performance art. But who’s to say it couldn’t be?

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