domingo, 12 de julio de 2009

May the best win ... but what about the rest ?

In the early 90s as a young and ambitious pianist I was active in the competition world as a competitor, and I always wonder how would it feel to be on the other side, sitting as one of the judges. My parents were not so well off, they couldn't act as my producer, sponsor and manager for my musical career (they didn't even know anything about this crazy artistic business), so that was the only way I could earn money back then. Now already about a decade I've been sitting, watching, listening and judging various competitions, both in Spain and in Indonesia. Naturally since then I have heard and received, directly and indirectly, protests or just insatisfaction from those who don't win, or even don't pass the first preminilary round(s). Not only protesting against the result, but later on they attack the system, infrastructure and even the very existence of an artistic competition.

I've always expressed my disagreement about competitions for the arts. Naturally I don't protest when I won a competition, but I do think that competitions could pick the "survival of the fittest" only up to a certain level, which is the technical point. So it's just about making sure if a pianist can play the running scales and octaves in a refined manner, a violinist plays in tune all the way from beginning to end or whether a young composer's harmony and counterpoint reflects his good ear and that he's not just writing, as we say, "paper music". But after that, do we have the right to judge a good pianist's interpretation of a Prelude & Fugue by Bach ? If I do it differently, would MY interpretation receive a higher point than his or hers ? And imagine a competition where both young Shostakovich and young Stravinsky participated, to who would you give a higher mark?

But why do I join the "competition club" ? Simply because I cannot think of a better base for a young artist to build a career on. Now in Indonesia, where the number of pianists is growing (incredibly) rapidly, voices start to go around how competition is bad for the arts. It is obviously an old issue (but still talked about) here in Europe, without anybody finding its solution. Of course those critical voices in Indonesia come from those who have joined and "lost" (I hate that word), either in a national, regional competition or by those who have participated abroad and ... well, you know the result. Now I tell you one thing, folks. I was really lucky to have won my first competition, but I have had my share of losing a couple as well. It is not a rule that if you win in a competition, you'd win in another, and the same can be said about losing. You just gotta do your best ! And stop talking and stop criticizing ! A successful person is not the one who never failed ; it is he who can get up and do it again after each failure. And success, my friends, is built on many failures. And if competitions are so bad .... can you give a better suggestion to what a young pianist, or any other artists should do to start their career ?? Nothing Machiavellian, I mean.

If you can, that's great. Because I can't.