It’s been one year that we’re all trying to define for ourselves what’s going on and where this all leads to. Since nobody really knows it, we try to make sense of it by giving importance to all sorts of stories that tell us what we should do and how to live. Television and Internet are packed with threatening information that increase the level of fear and insecurity in people. Not all people though. Only those who can’t stay away from the source of news, hoping that this source of news will pull them out of this global haze. Many people claim they got used to the situation and that they became immune to the amount of negative thoughts projected through the screens. At the same time, they can’t stop talking about restrictions and everything else which more or less subconsciously landed in their heads while inhaling their daily dose of news.
As much as we’re ruled by fear, we’re ruled by hope; in the end everyone wants to stay informed in case the breaking news come: “It’s over. We can go back to normal”. But the thing is the old normal won’t come back or it’s very unlikely… At this point we’re probably all fully aware of it. At least if we think about the global picture.
For the music circle it has been a difficult year. No travels, no concerts, no prospects. Everyone on standby, scratching his head ‘will this concert happen or not? ‘. Some did, most didn’t. It’s difficult to live like that for a longer period of time, especially if one’s only income source are concerts. This applies to a vast number of musicians who don’t do anything else. Just play.
If your age or status allow you to lean back and relax waiting for the whole turmoil to end, you’re not in danger. If you do also other things (you are into business or properties, as few musicians are) you will also know how to manage. But this is not the case with most of the musicians. A relatively small group can survive a few years or more but very many have trouble surviving a few months. Those who next to playing concerts teach, they are in a bit better position – at least a steady income gives them peace of mind while waiting for the above-mentioned breaking news.
What will happen when the magical “It’s over” comes?
Changes are inevitable. They’re already happening: some changes are happening the way I wrote about in May 2020 (Post-corona life of solo musicians). But it’s not over yet. There will be more.
As we know now, many musicians were forced to change their jobs for good. Some will never return. Others, especially those who are in their fifties+, are struggling mentally: they realized their musical life might be over sooner than they thought. They can’t do anything else, they can’t adjust or reinvent themselves.
Younger ones are still optimistic. Those, who are sort of successful still believe that once it’s over, their life will continue more or less the way it looked before 2020 or even better! This might be the case for some – I would say, it depends on the country the musician is from and how actively their country promotes their own artists and how hard it tries to push them up in the food chain. In other words, what’s the current general interest in classical music (if it’s a hype or not in their own country) and the general support that musicians get from their own nation or system. But this subject, due to its’ complexity is for another time.
Most of the younger musicians however, will need to become more versatile, more inventive and more creative. It’s over with playing the same things in a standardized way over and over again. Period. Also, changing one or two ideas in a few bars of music and call it a different interpretation is not working, even if the core classical music business and their people think otherwise. Also, playing like a robot will soon be out of anybody’s interest – the robots will beat us here, this you can be sure of.
I write that with confidence and repeat it constantly together with my husband, Ingolf, since the moment (which was several years ago) we actually opened up also for a life that is outside of the music circle and music business – entities that force you to be quite short-sighted. They force you to believe that your circle is right and everyone else is not. Even more: everyone else simply doesn’t exist.
The feeling I could compare that with, is a situation what probably everyone of us has experienced: imagine you sit in a big room with some other people for a longer period of time. It’s all good. You’re busy together so you don’t even realize that the level of oxygen decreases. The air gradually becomes denser, less clean. Some people are leaving, but you’re still there with others: busy, although your productivity level slowly goes down, even though you’re not aware of it yet. The people that are passing by and would join you with pleasure, don’t do that because they don’t feel comfortable: one of those says “Hey, open the window!” but you ignore it, because you got used to the air you’re in and you think you feel good. Only when you start to suffocate, someone opens the window. And, guess what, you enjoy the breeze which is beneficial for all members of the gathering in the room and it even invites others to join you.
I would love that the classical music circle realizes this simple metaphor in time and doesn’t have to discover it’s true only when it starts to suffocate for good.
Therefore, I invite you all to look for window handles. It feels the world is going through a thunderstorm right now… And you know how pleasant the air is during and after it ends. We just must open the window soon. And we can do it together!
There are plenty of opportunities out there that would increase the importance of music and musicians in society and that would be beneficial for the whole circle. But in order to do that, the circle must become aware that the power of musicians doesn’t lie in standardization. It lies in their diversity: the way they approach musical pieces, the way they live and what they have to offer next to playing. Also, how interesting and inspiring they are as a human being! The only common thing here should be the presence of musicality in their playing. And that’s exactly what very often is actually missing.
We’re going into a nano space by pointing out, already mentioned, one different bar in a recording or one wrong note, rather than trying to see more – this would improve our sense of judgement overall. We’re focusing on spotting this what we know already, instead of opening up for new ideas, new implementations, new approaches as a whole. We promote what we know the way we know it, instead of promoting this what is unconventional but interesting and valuable.
That’s why the current approach is not inspiring and not much worth from a broadly understood educational point of view. What it brings in the end is that musicians are not free, their interpretations lack personal touch, their skills are more technical than musical, their interviews are dull. They have not much to say and if they say something it rarely inspires readers to think about the subject further. It’s a copy-paste scheme: if you cover the name of an artist and you read an interview with him, you realise that this interview could be given almost by any musician: he plays somewhere (others are playing there too), he records something (others are recording it too), he has some thoughts (but guess what, in most of the cases, even if beautiful, they are quite generic and others express them exactly the same way) and he has some hobbies like reading books or watching movies… or anything else that is quite usual and mentioned in a very general way. The same with video interviews, of course. Most of them are equally dull and generic.
This all is not what artistry and personality is all about and it can’t have a big impact on others and make them get deeply fascinated. The people around musicians (journalists, managers, labels, etc.) don’t help here either. On contrary, they do everything to underline this standardized element. In a way it’s simply easier for them to deal with it this way. But it has a disastrous impact on the world of music and arts.
Sometimes it feels that nobody really cares here and is focused on personal gain only: as long as someone can make his five bugs, he doesn’t really mind the struggle of the music circle and its’ decreasing popularity in society, and chooses to ignore the long-term results of such a behaviour.
There are though many people who are different, but their voice is not prominent, doesn’t get attention. Therefore, it’s important that we gather these voices and try to make something positive and good for the whole music world together. Maybe this way, we can get rid of this hazy picture that the society has in mind when it thinks about classical music.
Please, feel free to share with us what you’re doing and how you try to influence the music world to become less standardized, more open for new ideas, more versatile and more interesting to the rest of the world. Write us an email! We’re always looking for change-makers who try to make a difference on a small scale. You’re important and you should feel this way!