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?