(The following refers back to some recent posts on my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/jack.wright.77770 , in particular, an interview with Ben Wright http://searchandrestore.com/blog/?id=83091985659)

Interviews are of course written or spoken by the musicians themselves, free to give their honest thought to the questions. And since—let’s face it–in musician fb pages and even musician blogs we are mainly talking to each other, we’re at least the potential interview subjects, not musicians other than ourselves. We’re free to offer our thoughts, yet interviews are framed and understood as being “about” us, characterizing us for a readership thought to be “the public.” It is also taken for granted that we intend to elicit a positive response, since we are not just private individuals but perceived as hoping to advance ourselves through public exposure. How many times is an interview of obscure musicians such as ourselves prefaced with “so-and-so is underrated”? Right there our words are framed as helpful to our career, regardless of what we actually say. We may think we’re just speaking our mind, but the interview is inescapably a promotional tool, and we are powerless to frame it differently.

It’s the same with reviews; a “good review” is just like in the old movies, where those with a stake in a play that just opened wait up all night to read the reviews, which will determine their fate. What was important was whether the review was positive or not, thumbs up or down. This is where critics got their power, and some still write as if they had that kind of power to determine our fate. That’s why a writer who takes a different approach, such as I referred to in my post a few days ago, is a radical and welcome departure from the tradition. There was no pretense of objectivity but a story of how the music affected one spectator, in his own words, a very different concept of the meaning of the music.

If we want to increase the size of our audience, as is assumed, then it would seem that we have little choice but to operate as entrepreneurs, selling ourselves in a market so flooded that the vast majority of us are invisible (except to each other!) It would be difficult today, given the percentage decline of performers who actually make a living from playing music, to find more than a few who are truly “established,” who can be confident of their position in the music world. And those who are established complain that there are too many of us, presumably envious of their position. The suspicion will always cling to our interviews, depending on whether we are seen as “rising” or established, that we are hoping to strike readers positively. To not care about the effect of our words indicates that we are not “serious” musicians. That word “serious” is then split between two meanings that are not comfortable as bedfellows: deeply devoted to music and working for success.

If someone like myself or many of my partners say we are not working for success, are not concerned with expanding the number of audience, happy with our situation as it is, well, is such a musician even conceivable? Isn’t this just a ploy to impress people, including other musicians, that we’re “true artists,” above the fray? Aren’t such people really just trying to attract attention to themselves? It indicates a confidence in one’s playing activity—playing first of all for ourselves–that needs no confirmation from others, which could easily be scorned as elitist self-indulgence.

In this situation we might express thoughts that go into the nature of what we share as musicians, not intentionally provocative or radical but thought-provoking, yet they will be skimmed over. Our expressions could well engage the reader’s active reflection, whether labeled a musician or not, but the interview as promotional tool will tend to obscure that.  On the contrary, even things we say about ourselves can be taken not as a means to achieve “greater visibility” but as the ground for our own reflection.

One example, and what stimulated my writing here, is Ben’s response to question four of the interview with Sam Weinberg http://searchandrestore.com/blog/?id=83091985659 . He is asked what he likes about playing duo, and it could be read as his opinion, but more fruitfully it is an inquiry into what goes on between us when we’re musically engaged in free playing. He says “some concurrence of intention” is necessary, and the possibility of two players lacking that. Since this is something probably every one of us could respond to, his thoughtful response, which goes into the difference in player dynamics between duo and larger groups, could open us to a discussion that is rarely if ever attended to. Most importantly, to reflect and articulate on this could affect the next time we play, could lead to—who knows what.

It’s often thought that musicology is a sphere of classical, jazz and mainstream musics (even popular music is now being treated by musicologists)—picking apart scores and recordings to uncover musical meaning. This question, however, of how we actually relate to each other when we don’t know what the other is going to do—playing freely—is our musicology. And how much better if we do this amongst ourselves before academics start picking us apart to find what makes us tick. As surely they will.

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