- Published Nov 18, 2013 in Signal Flow
- Read time: about 5 minutes
Is it music or the humans who make it that draws us closer to the core of what we seek? When all is said and done, truth is what we carry with us through the years.
Thoughts, opinions, skill-sets, perspective, boundaries, criteria, goals, values and commitments. Yes, you will see them bleeding through what I write, hopefully, or I’m not doing my job.
They say someone with nothing to lose is at his most dangerous. And, guess what: I have nothing to lose by expressing the ideas that I have because my tacit perspective is that the public sphere is a space where intellectual comments can be expressed, challenged, honed and amended if necessary.
It just so happens that my interests, studies and hobbies touch on areas that allow me to back up some of my claims with research, while my opinions are a synthesis of references, sources and experiences that I hope I can articulate in a convincing way. I'll leave it to you to determine how dangerous I am.
Let me lay out some things that I see as basic truths:
Musicians ain't special.
There, I said it. Music, at some levels, is work. It is a craft that is work, but it is work, for some a job, like furniture making. But most people don't have posters of cabinet makers plastered all over their room as teens or pay top dollar to see "Furniture Live!".
The advantage of seeing things from [a] humanist perspective is that it strips us of simple cognitive biases we can avoid.
Nothing against the hard work and artistry of woodworkers across the globe, but the difference is music falls into this niche category of work called entertainment. This means an unbalanced amount of attention is placed on musicians, and the skills thereof, based on the current values of our culture.
Don't let it get you down Mr. Brown! Turn that frown upside down! For I am a musician, and just like my Italian-ness allows me to say negative things about guidos that may prevent an Italian- wannabe (i.e., non-Italian) from getting away with it, I feel all sorts of comfortable being intellectually honest about this in-group I belong to known as musicians. We are all humans who happen to organize sound. Period. Anything beyond that statement is wish-fulfillment.
The advantage of seeing things from this humanist perspective is that it strips us of simple cognitive biases we can avoid, like straw man fallacies. Let’s engage with one another as humans first, who just happen to be talking music, rather than musicians talking tech.
You may see me reframe data, research or information to bend the arc of conversation towards human-centered dialogue. It’ll still be about music and bass-ification, but I'll just be a bass guy, not The Bass Guy.
Music ain't special.
Yup, it ain’t. You may like it a lot. A real, real lot. But that don’t make it magical.
Hell, you may even have some badass stories, or have read some convincing research that involves something amazing happening in the presence of music.
I love those stories. But probably for different reasons than the storyteller wants me to love them. Part of this is due to the fact that I am an awe-ist. I am in awe and humbled by the natural universe and things that are mysteries and philosophical dilemmas and such. But that awe is bounded by my training in the scientific method which has ingrained in me the ideas of Occam’s Razor and "correlation does not mean causation" as well as other gems that guide my skeptical journey through reality.
I love music, please don't get me wrong. But I have an understanding of how a stimulus that is emotionally engaging, like music, and preferred, like music, and hedonically pleasing, like music, can be a powerful associative variable in many paradigms.
But it raises the question, is it the music causing observed performance, or it’s emotionally engaging, preferred, hedonically pleasing elements? Further, could another stimulus with an equal amount of those qualities be substituted for music, thus showing how flaccid music is without a variable like, say, preference?
“I suspect music is auditory cheesecake, an exquisite confection crafted to tickle the sensitive spots of... our mental faculties.”
Being an awe-ist, I am particularly fascinated with music because I am of the belief that it serves no evolutionary purpose. Stephen Pinker floats the idea that, in the same sense we didn't evolve to appreciate cheesecake—for there are no cheesecake plants from which to harvest it—it combines many elements evolution has selected for: sweet, fatty, creamy, etc. Music merely combines vocal and auditory elements that evolution has selected for and allows the brain to enjoy them like cheesecake.
(And it’s calorie free!)
Of Gandalf and a journey.
You have to deconstruct before you reconstruct.
Finding your passion is the true goal.
￼I hope I've disarmed you so far and challenged your pre-existing ideas of who should be writing articles about music considering I just admitted that neither musicians nor music is special. This is all part of the deconstruction.
When does the reconstruction begin?
Now. Right now.
From this point on, and manifesting as an emergent property in my articles, I want to engage with humans, not musicians, who are committed to a value of craftsmanship, motivation and inspiration. It just so happens I play bass, so I will use it as a metaphor and entré into most discussions of art and craft. But if you are looking for bass player articles written by a self-avowed bass player for self-avowed bass players, please go elsewhere. My articles may not resonate with you. My videos might, but my articles come from this place I'm talking from right now.
Gandalf wrote, “Not all who wander are lost,” (actually Tolkien wrote it) and I am here to facilitate such wandering.
Anything that makes you happy is worth pursuing because being a musician doesn't mean anything in and of itself, and playing music doesn’t mean anything in and of itself. Finding your passion is the true goal.
Let’s wander toward our passions together. It begins with a breath.