For most of the people whose road I happen to cross a day or another, my work is to play the piano and wow or at least please an audience. I would be in this case just an entertainer. You can effectively consider that music has a one and only goal, entertaining people, but I strongly disagree with this simplistic idea. Entertaining people is one of the multiple possible goals of Art, but I don’t really think our job just stops here. We have to go deeper than this first subjective idea of a work and approach other layers of its understanding.
Even in those times dominated by the market law, I think we, artists, have to be free and not only an employee of the culture industry: we should be able to develop and put in practice our vision. If every single move we do as artists is motivated by an external demand with no direct aesthetic meaning within our vision then our position as thinkers is compromised. We loose our function of social influencer and become a reflection of the society. I believe Art is a catalyst for change in society and not a mere exponent of it: turning it into “a simple function, an object which can be substitute for an other object, or – in the final analysis – an article of consumption” (Adorno, philosophy of new music) is degrading it.
If we think about it, every choice of a musician can be seen as a political or philosophical action: our choice of repertoire, the sobriety or verbosity of our playing, our programs translate our state of mind towards music but also towards life in general. Every aspect of our art has to be coherent with one another, and organized towards the implementation of our ideas creating a personal and consistent world in which people (the audience) want (or not) to subscribe.
Unfortunately, most musicians are so anxious about breaking rules predefined by a sort of musical totalitarianism that they forgot to be themselves and unfortunately deliver a standardized output incompatible with their true personality. We finally just endlessly repeat again and again the same things in the same way, with little cosmetic changes to make it look new and shiny. But only one thing really changes: the essence of our Art fades away a little more every day. We are not victims, we have been supporting this for many years. We respect “standards of the industry” so well that our mind (thus creativity) has been standardized too. Even in our pre-formated bios: I played here, here and here with him, her and him, and I grew up in the middle of I-don’t-care-where. But does it really say something about the artist, about his way to approach music? Even when trustworthy, none of these facts really mean something musically speaking nor defining a musical personality. They are at most trying to show the reader how “successful”, in a certain and common way of power and hype, a musician is. But is this being successful musically speaking? I don’t think so, at least if you consider music as an end and not a means.
In other fine arts, expressing your true self and breaking the rules is something you have to do. Sure, you don’t break the rules just to break the rules, you break the rules because you need to/must do so because it doesn’t make any sense within your logical thinking. Which means you first need a critical/logical thinking before anything else. Once you know why, you can break the rule. Thinking is (should be!) the first action of a musician: you play with your mind, not your fingers or mouth or whatever you use to action your instrument.
Thinking out of the box is not forbidden, nor finding new paths. What’s very dubious is trying to be superficially (cosmetically) different, without an authentic purpose. When you have a look at our schools and educational system, you probably think it’s not made to think different, it looks like a factory delivering standardized products. Apparently, you’re right. But in fact you’re wrong. Music schools learn you the basics and traditions, so you know them. But it’s only at the end of your education that the journey towards your vision and your self is beginning. You acquired the tools at school, it’s now time to use them for your own good. This absolutely needed journey is long and painful but is a wonderful inner experience.
Get to know yourself to learn what you value most. Get to know yourself to know what you want to do. Get to know yourself to know what you want to say. Get to know yourself to stay coherent. Get to know yourself to better communicate your values through your Art.