sábado, 8 de septiembre de 2012

Being better ... than yourself

Time and again, I must confess: I don't like music competitions. It is cruel, and in my opinion something which can be so subjective should not be competed and judged. Yeah you can run faster, you can jump higher, but what is to play the piano better? Or sing better? What is better anyway? ______________________________________________________________________ But now, you tell me something. If you (like me, ca. 25 years ago) were an unknown young (classical) musician, and your parents (or your partner) are neither millionaires nor having friends in high places, what should you do for starting your career? You would need a platform to show people your artistic abilities, right? Now, how would you do that? And another thing. Supposed that you really are confident, and really want to depend solely on your artistic abilities. How would you get audience to come to your concert, as a totally unknown musician? ____________________________________________________________________ That's why when some sponsors proposed me to do the Ananda Sukarlan Award (ASA) back 5 years ago, I accepted it with pleasure. And am equally thankful to Amadeus Performing Arts who, in 2010 followed with another proposal of a competition for voice, "Tembang Puitik Ananda Sukarlan" in their city, Surabaya, though as ASA it is of national scale. Those competitions will mean so much for the young talents of Indonesia, who are looking for their first steps of their musical career through the "normal", honest way. ___________________________________________________________________ Now, would the winners of the competition guarantee high artistic qualities? Most probably they do. But during the years, we have discovered that artistic quality alone is not enough to build a career. There is a more important aspect in building a musical career, and that is attitude. Yes, (opera) singers are famous for their strange behaviours and demands, but that era is gone now. We need professionals, an artist we can depend on, during the rehearsals, recordings and most importantly in concerts. We all understand how difficult it is to be a singer, carrying your own musical instrument in your body ; in fact, your body IS your musical instrument. It takes high responsibility, and therefore an intense feeling of insecurity all the time. But believe me, it's not only singers who have difficult attitudes. It's just in each and every performers psyche. Yes, including pianists. _______________________________________________________________________ I tell you one thing. Professional artists and performers are simply just workers, nothing else. Yup, workers. Like those who works cleaning the streets. We (in our case, our managers) sign the contracts, we do the job, and that's it. And during the process of doing our job, we are just working like nerds, yeah yeah, it's that boring and that uncool. We don't care if our clothes are cheap or expensive, we don't care about the food whether it's fine dining or junk food. In our head there is just one thing: finish the job, and finish it well. The amateurs are the opposite, they care of those things we don't care: how they look, how they are treated, what kind of priorities they are given and what people think of them. Yeah, they spend so much time, money and energy (that they don't have) to do things (that they can't) to impress people (that they don't like). In fact, they do music not to express, but to impress. Sadly, in the end, nobody's impressed. _______________________________________________________________________ I wrote this inspired by the tweets of my friend, the conductor who recently I worked with, Addie MS. Many people look up to him as someone who is cool and effortless. He tweeted on the day of our concert: "people just see the result in 2 hours, but people don't see (and don't care to see) the days and hours before it, preparing concert, the sweat, the tension. And after all those, I gotta be on stage and smile as if nothing happens". And in fact, he doesn't have to smile, he's a conductor, he doesn't face the public! But that's the extra mile, that mile with an s. _______________________________________________________________________ I always remember my dad's advice: "Son, you don't have to be better than other people. You just gotta be better than what you think you could be". Still working on it, dad.