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The Arts and the State of Progress

I would like to bring attention to the arts, and the rhetoric in which in todays paradigm is projected. There is a common idea that the arts are valuable, however there is not the actual translation of that to any observations on the ground to reality. I am a musician an have had to spend my life as a musician as a street performer. I engage 100% of the creative process in my execution of my art. Others choose to automate the process denying themselves the hard work that brings the fulfilment of virtuosity.

 

This article is to introduce something that I feel not many people realise, and that is how art mirrors real life. In the case of the Zeitgeist Movement and it’s goal toward the Resourced Based Economy, there should be a connection with improving the efficiency and output of everything. So when we talk of the arts, specifically in my case, music, we need to consider all the forces and influences that have affected it, specifically pertaining to the rhetoric of support for the arts. It is rarely backed by actual support. i used to deal with arts funded bodies who could do nothing for individuals and most of their effort was to maintain their funding, which merely required them to write reports. However more importantly the purpose of this article is to show how the arts reflects reality in the compromise of quality to superficial values such as fashion. This can force is the same one that retards the actual application of known science.

 

So when recording started, it was originally thought to be a mechanism to promote the performer. This became very quickly hijacked by its ability to generate money, which meant that the people who ended up making the money were not the musicians. Naturally the (real) musician’s focus is their art. Then you look at the underlying forces generated by the competitive market system which requires anyone to minimise effort to and maximise money generated, which requires automation. Notice the move from that point from the performer to “the music”, and that is what they were selling. All forms of fashion were generated, and catchy little tunes, and thus the birth of pop music. It is necessary to trivialise the effort that anyone puts into anything because that concentrates profits to the experts of profit-making. It was necessary to create a system of copyright (in the guise of protecting the performer), but the profit-experts knew they could easily gain ultimate control.

 

So you see from that point there was a dumbing down of the quality of what was being presented, because that is where the profits were going. (the withholding of efficiency so that things can break down so more can be sold) The substance was slowly drained out of what used to be the virtuosity of skill. Adulation was the goal rather than the substance of the performance. There was a concerted effort to promote anti-intellectualism, which is evident when anyone mentions the word “classical” in reference to music. It has to be noted that the classical period is only a small part of that picture, there is also renaissance, baroque, romantic (including its legacy), as well as a very vibrant modern contribution, including latin and folk.

 

Notice that in the past, before recording, a performers copyright was their ability to play. This was made redundant by the recording. They (the profit makers) do not want anything that is exclusive to anyone or any moment (except if it by is the profit makers), it has to be reproducible to maximise profit, and people have to tire of it so that more can be sold. What happened in past times was the musicians would perform incredible feats of virtuosity to gain the competitive edge just to survive. A lot of this could also have been generated naturally, because at a certain level of accomplishment the progress is self generated through the focus and passion, and when one gets to a certain level of achievement one sees more possibilities with knowledge and experience not available to someone who is untrained.

 

Another casualty of automation is the absolute power of the skilful performance which is in fact a mutually beneficial and mutually engaging activity. The focus of the listener creates the quality of the performance, especially when the music is technically demanding. It is the same for any focused community gathering where positive outcomes are necessary. There are two negative social forces in play here. One is the amplification of the sound, which one could speculate is symptomatic of an inability to listen, and the other is the relegation of music to the ad-infinitum dross of the background. So you see the two forces working against the actual implementation of putting value on the arts (specifically music) which is the spectator syndrome which requires to be entertained. They will never be satisfied, because they are in control of the on-off switch. This empty space is often filled with self-medication, and neurosis.

 

I see the wisdom of engaging our skill as living beings can and that is what art represents. One can spend a lifetime building on a skill that creates a unique contribution different than any other who has not attempted that skill. This has to do with overcoming obstacles, and using the plasticity of the brain to solve problems. The main achievement of these skills is in the moment, and the reproduction of them in any other moment, but also unique to that moment. This is very inspiring and the pleasure it gives the receivers also fuels the performer, thus it is a mutually beneficial process. the receivers become inspired and the performers have the incentive to improve.

 

I see a casualty of the arts even now in the alternative indie music industry. Here I do not recognise the playing of music by technicians, because they are not actually playing it. This is the ultimate replacement of the performer by a machine, and then it is not the person it is the sound. I feel it is a misuse of effort because the technical skills can also be spent on actually playing an instrument, where the physical limitations actually give the music its special and unique character.

 

The main point here is that for someone who wants to be a computer technician, their technical skills would be better spent on science or engineering, instead of making musicians redundant. The virtual musician is misusing the use of technology. The effort spent on learning technology could have been spent on getting the motor skills to be a virtuosic musician. It is the virtuosic (not the virtual) musician that understands what it means to play music, and that is what created the masterpieces. The computer technician cannot know that, it is like the difference between knowing something and actually experiencing it. This is where techno-music is lacking. It is not just motor skills it is knowledge of theory, and instrument efficiency. Most of all it is the mastery of the living being. However there are virtuosic musicians who experiment with it, and you would know the difference. The techno music tends to be collections of noises, and I can just go outside, or to a forrest, or a factory and listen to those. (I used to operate an offset printing press with interesting rhythms).

 

Also in this alternative indie music industry, is the casualty of the effort that is needed to make something better, where someone can copyright a simple tune and try to attack anyone who tries to resemble it. Typically those musicians really use the same tunes but just write different words. The harmonic and rhythmical possibilities are severely limited by an odd perception of themselves that they can be proud of what they do not know. (they seem to be proud of not knowing anything about music) I must just add the fact that I live in Australia and this is the experience here, and exceptional performers often go elsewhere.

 

There is not the recognition for instrumental music, and unless someone is singing it does not get the attention. Ultimately everything that one knows is built upon what they have heard from others anyway, and what you can play has special significance to you, but not necessarily to others. A musician has to have two overlaying perspectives in any moment, what is actually being played, and the technical knowledge of what it takes to play it. I have specifically concentrated on instrumental music, because it encourages open listening unbiased by the mental activity associated with cognising words.

 

I see a symptom of failing in our social system being mirrored in the arts. The lack of attention to detail in the intricacies of our lives i.e. the inefficiency of economics, the purposeful withholding in efficiency and the inbuilt redundancies manifesting incredible waste and destruction, is a symptom of not perfecting a living being as an efficient life being. Popular music depends on quantity not quality, and the focus is on individual stars to the exclusion of all those equally (and often more) competent. The market forces creating a restriction to actual advancements that might make things more efficient but suppressed because of the existence of a profit system. Musicians who can’t compete with those market forces do not have the resources to improve themselves as a musician so the either give up or have to be satisfied with limited skill or knowledge.

 

One thing I have noticed with (some) listeners, is that they refuse to enjoy something if it is “perfect”. They have been trained to expect perfection because all imperfections are removed artificially in the recording process. With an instrument like a trumpet it can take hundreds of takes to get a high note to sound nice. This is not noticed in real time because people do not have focused attention and so do not notice. In real life the bad note is accidental and the energy of the moment can create better notes that cannot be reproduced in the artificial situation of a studio. I find that someone can watch my performance and if anything goes wrong in real time they loose interest and walk away. So rather than celebrate the good, the tendency is to react to imperfection. I then have to compromise my performance so they don’t notice, and this is ultimately destructive for my own progress. It is often because of the hostile nature of the performance amidst multitudes of distractions.

 

So I continue to perform on the streets, where I do what I want to do, when and for how long I want to do it. I perform totally free of charge and expectation (after extensive training) to a mostly sober audience. My reward is being able to play the music in a hostile situation to the best of my ability. I do not have to compete with anyone, and if someone else turns up and insists on wanting to perform I go elsewhere. I understand that if I get used to that performing situation that it is different to having a focused audience and to do that I would have to start again, but it is a default situation the alternative being not to play music for a living. I imaging my role in a Resourced based economy that there would be a place I could play where it is celebrated and have a place to live as well. The current paradigm allows me to make sufficient to remain on the road, but not enough to live anywhere which would require twice my present income, as well as having to compete with all the local musicians (which I refuse to do). However I have become a debt slave (figuratively not actually) where I have to put in long hours of performance and there is not sufficient time to add to my skills as I would like as recovery is required, and as I get older, it becomes more severe.

 

One of the main observations that I have made is that music in Public places displaces those who want to play. This is a part of the extensive network of white noise which is responsible for trivialising human effort. It makes no sense to automate something that someone wants to do. This is one of the basic needs and that is the need for meaningful livelihood. It also includes the need for social acceptance and recognition, where one can apply effort to improve oneself and then give of oneself to the benefit to others.

 

The main point I make here is that the virtual musician is misusing the use of technology. The effort spent on learning technology could have been spent on getting the motor skills to be a virtuosic musician. It is the virtuosic musician that understands what it means to play music, and that is what created the masterpieces. The computer technician cannot know that, it is like the difference between knowing something and actually experiencing it. This is where techno-music is lacking. It is not just motor skills it is knowledge of theory, and instrument efficiency. Most of all it is the mastery of the living being. However there are virtuosic musicians who experiment with it, and you would know the difference. The techno music tends to be collections of noises, and I can just go outside, or to a forrest, or a factory and listen to those. (I used to operate an offset printing press with interesting rhythms).

 

I have also see musicians perform live the techno music, as did the father of it (Mike Olfield), and I have to say, for me it is much more exciting. I just don’t get the same buzz when no one is doing anything in the moment. For me music is not just a noise, it is an experience of effort, achievement and that is where the inspiration is, people doing something.

 

I make the point of misuse of effort, because that medium would be better spent on engineering or science problems, and the time spent on music is as misplaced as is the effort that people spend on the paper shuffling to do with the money system.

 

I forgot to make a very important point, and that has to do with cooperation. Music expresses this when people are playing together, it is something that works on a high order level of consciousness. What I feel the automating was doing was to obfuscate the necessity for people to do this. Social pressures and personal imbalance has forced the use of technology to do what people are quite capable to do. Also the technology industry is ruthless in its waste and redundancy. Supporting these very destructive forces is not conducive to actual cooperation. I have rarely experienced it because not very many musicians are aware enough or as competent. You will see this sort of competence with good jazz musicians. I know I am generalising, but I am just trying to bring the attention to some of the noise in the “system”.

 

I forgot to make a very important point, and that has to do with cooperation. Music expresses this when people are playing together, it is something that works on a high order level of consciousness. What I feel the automating was doing was to obfuscate the necessity for people to do this. Social pressures and personal imbalance has forced the use of technology to do what people are quite capable to do. Also the technology industry is ruthless in its waste and redundancy. Supporting these very destructive forces is not conducive to actual cooperation. I have rarely experienced it because not very many musicians are aware enough or as competent. You will see this sort of competence with good jazz musicians. I know I am generalising, but I am just trying to bring the attention to some of the noise in the “system”.

 

I know I will get a lot of technophiles making knee jerk reactions, but I am not a technophobe not a ludite. The point about artistic expression people make is genrerally not scientific, it is romantic. What is scientific, is when someone puts the effort into playing a musical instrument, the expression reflects that effort. That effort includes understanding what musicality is and how it works through music theory. If you have expert knowledge of technology, you may not have expert knowledge of music, so it does not follow that technology based music can be better. In fact technology has made the actual performers better, as they have much more efficient access to printed music, and the technology is making the instruments better.

 

Please if we are going to have a discussion about what constitutes good music, great we can have that, but that is not what the article is about. In todays society, where I have to survive, where competition rules, technology (in reference to music) is bad. I say this because it is motivated by not wanting to practice a musical instrument, instead of being inspired with a love of music. Then the love of music is hindered by the technical aspect of using technology, where you have to put all your effort into that, but that is not music, it is technology.  The whole discussion is basically wanting to go to heaven but not wanting to die. Consider when playing music using technology you are only a small percentage of the creative process. When there is just the instrument and the mind of the performer it is 100% (of the creative process), and it is in that moment, and every other moment is different.

 

To reiterate, technology would be better put to good use in science and engineering. Please consider all music that is listened to where there is not someone playing music, is at the expense of all those who want to play music. Then you can consider all the psychological problems that people have because they are not doing what they really want to do. What is this obsession with the sound rather than the music performance? We need to make our lives efficient and singular satisfiers must be replaced with synergistic ones. Recording was originally intended to advertise the musician, but has been manipulated to replace them.

 

I am sure Ben McLeish knows this, and his discussion is framed in the future. We are not there yet, and I need to survive until we do. So all this discussion by technophiles is not helpful. In a RBE I would be able to perform and I would have all the necessities of life. In the market system it is impossible. I have had friends committed suicide through the lack of support for music, most people do not go that far, and they become disc jockeys, but when they make enough money they do something else, but the bottom line was that they gave up playing music. This means that they compromised what they wanted to do because of the market. This is a loss for them and society in general.

 

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