Apr 242011

OK, musicians, is music just good old silly fun, or is it majestic, elegant, the foundation of the universe?

Let’s listen in on the debate.

Music is supposed to be fun.

No, wait, it’s more than that. It is elegant, is infinite, brings us close to the design of the universe.

Or, maybe it’s just fun. Making sounds, like birds calling to each other.

But birds sing for love, for mating, to build a home. For birds, their song is everything they live for.

Remember when we were kids, and we would sing all kinds of songs to each other. Just for fun, to make a smile or laugh. Isn’t that all there is to music?

Yes, but some kids also think about eternity, their small place in the unknowable expanse of time and space. These big feelings and thoughts are real, not just academic artifices that adults create to agonize their minds.

Wow, time out. These are some big questions.

There are two great books that have come out in recent years discussing this kind of question. Victor Wooten’s “The Music Lesson” teaches the Zen silly side of things, encouraging playfulness, imagination, and a whole-life whole-self joy in music. Glenn Kurtz’s “Practicing” is a first-person account of a young classical guitarist who gave up on music because he couldn’t reach perfection, beauty, mastery, and importance. It’s Mozart’s requiem versus “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” to oversimplify.

I love both of these books, because both provoke a lot of thought. If you’re a musician, why not click over to Amazon and buy these? Each one costs less than a CD, which makes it seem pretty cheap when you think about how many CDs a musician usually buys. Musicians also spend a lot of money buying sheet music, tab books, books on scales and technique. Maybe you are one of those who downloads several chord charts or lead sheets every month to learn more songs from your favorite artists. But have you read anything lately to grow your musical personality, to stretch yourself a bit beyond learning a new scale or a tricky chord change? Try out these two books, or maybe search around and find some others that might challenge and encourage you.

The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music
– by Victor Wooten

Practicing: A Musician’s Return to Music (Vintage)
– by Glenn Kurtz

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