Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Recognition: Other thoughts

My post yesterday sounded awfully preachy; I had some need to wrap things up with a moral, skipping over the darkest nights of the soul and all that.

One reason people crave recognition is it's part of the apparently wired-in need to compete. Picture cavemen sitting around the fire, and Ogg wowing the others with his ability throw a rock and hit the prey every time. Ogg not only gets to eat more often but people maybe give him stuff so he will bag them more food, too, or so he will throw rocks at predators and protect them.

With musicians, what happens is that first, you realize you love to play. Then, if you get good enough, you think that maybe you can do this all the time. You quickly realize that if you want to play for other people, you have to compete with other musicians for the opportunity. This is where desire for success starts to dilute love of playing. The deeper you get into competing -- for awards, for spots in schools, for jobs -- the farther you get from your original motivation.

If you suffer defeat after defeat -- as most of us do, for one reason or another -- you wake up after 5, 10, 20 years, or more, and realize that you don't love playing anymore or, if you do, that you hate this competition business.

Some do thrive on it. They have the constitution and the extroverted personality. As you can probably guess, I do not. I can handle a certain amount of socializing, but it's work for me; I am not energized by it. Competing, even when I am legitimately equal to or better than those I"m competing with, exhausts me and fills me with a deep sense of inadequacy. I'd venture that even an extrovert tires of the game eventually, but I get tired before it even starts.

Self-recognition is all very well, and certainly is necessary, but it doesn't pay the rent. Recognition by others doesn't always have much to do with one's playing ability, or even music at all.

I don't have a neat way to wrap this up, other than to add that this is a complicated topic that calls for careful consideration. Anyone who ventures into playing music must grapple with it at some point, at some level.

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