Author Topic: Musicians and vanity  (Read 168 times)

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Offline Orbert

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Musicians and vanity
« on: May 25, 2017, 11:45:48 AM »
At some point, the majority of stuff I post on my Facebook page became pictures of me playing music.  Pretty much the same as here, I guess, at least as far as pictures go.  I play games online, but pictures of me doing that would not be very interesting.  I get together with friends, but pretty much all of them are fellow musicians, so pictures of these meet-ups are almost always pictures of us playing.  And really, Facebook is already too full of pictures of food and people eating food, or their pets that you don't care about, so... no.

It occurred to me that if there was one word I would pick to describe myself, "musician" is closest to what I think I "am".  I love playing music; it's what I do, it's what I am.  And of course it's gratifying to see people enjoying what I do, and hear people say good things about what they've experienced.  I've never quite figured out if I enjoy making music more because I enjoy the process itself, or because of the pleasure it seems to bring to others.  Maybe it doesn't really matter, but I've often wondered.

So since my Facebook page is basically my online vanity project, there's me playing the piano, me playing the saxophone, playing the flute, playing keyboards in the band, singing in the choir, and recently I got to add that picture of me playing in a recorder quartet.  I love the fact that I was apparently blessed with a gift that allows me to play a lot of different instruments and thus get to experience creating music in different ways.  And since I think that's pretty cool, I want to share it, so here they are, pictures of me doing all these things.  If it was someone else, I would think it was just as cool, seeing pictures of one person creating music in all these different scenarios.  But since it's me and not someone else, it occurred to me that it's really nothing more than vanity.  "Look at me, I'm so cool, I can do all these things!"  And that would be wrong.  Right?

This past Sunday, I got to do something else for the first time, playing with the Chimes.  They're like Bell Choirs, where a group of people each play one, maybe two (or more) bells; each bell is pitched, so to play a whole song takes a group of people playing the different notes.  Larger and more talented groups can play more complex pieces.  But instead of actual bells, we have these weird pitched things called chimes, so when the group performs, it's not the Bell Choir, it's just called Chimes.  Chimes are playing a song this Sunday, Chimes will be playing again next month, etc.

I thought that it would be cool to get a picture of me playing with the Chimes, so I asked my daughter to take some pictures.  I'm already thinking ahead to posting the best one on Facebook as something else I've done musically.  Add it to the collection.  Unfortunately, my daughter took my request literally, and got three pictures of me playing the chimes.  Just me, with the people on either side of me partly visible.



To me, the whole point of the ensemble is the ensemble.  I wanted at least one picture of all eight of us up there, but she didn't get a shot like that, and I didn't specify what kind of pictures I had in mind.

I was bummed.  I can't post this on Facebook or DTF.  It's just me, with Carter to my right and part of Michael to my left.  If I post the picture, it's pure vanity, it's all about me.  And then I wondered, okay, if I'm this bummed about it, then it is vanity.  I not only wanted to share something about me, but it also had to be just the way I wanted it.  If that's not being vain, what is?


So how much of playing music is because you enjoy playing, how much of that enjoyment is getting off on making people happy, and how much of it is making people happy and them telling you how awesome you are and how good that feels and going "Yeah, I'm fucking awesome, aren't I?"

And again, I'm not sure how much it matters, but I've often wondered, and now I wonder what other musicians think about it, too.

Offline Sir GuitarCozmo

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Re: Musicians and vanity
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2017, 12:49:46 PM »
It's parts of all three of those things.  The personal enjoyment of playing and the enjoyment of making others happy are the greatest factors, for most musicians.  There is, even if it's a half a percent of the total, a part that says "Sheeeeiiiiit, look at how awesome I am".  Any musician that says "Oh, nuh-uh, not me" is either lying (to themselves and everybody else) or somehow they just don't realize it.  But overwhelmingly, I think the "looking cool" part of it is very very little for most of us.

I play guitar, because I enjoy it and because it's one of the very few things I feel that I do well.  I enjoy being with other like-minded people who are somehow as capable as me and, when all put together, make a sound that is really fucking excellent.  I can go somewhere and play something that makes somebody forget about their mortgage or their car insurance or the leaky water heater or the weeds they need to pull, even if it's only for a few hours - that is powerful.  That is magical.  You're literally emotionally and mentally transporting yourself and everyone in the room to another place.  A wormhole that opens up right then and there, to another place that only exists in that moment.  And yeah, the trip is over all too quick, but it's one you're glad you took.  Then you pack it all up and go back to reality until the next time.  Conjuring up that kinda magic on the spot is some majorly cool shit.

So I think it's equal parts love of performing and a desire to make people happy.  And yeah, a small part of me looks at pics and video from each gig and says "That's cool.  There's a reason everybody wants to be a rockstar.  It's fuckin' bitchin'."

Offline Kotowboy

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Re: Musicians and vanity
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2017, 02:48:03 PM »
I can't bear arrogant bands.


Offline Lax

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Re: Musicians and vanity
« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2017, 06:57:02 AM »
I agree Orbert, if not taking a selfish individual close up shot, I feel bad when a picture doesn't contains all the band's members at once :)

Nowadays, I feel I'm not half the guitarist I could be, and play in a tribute band, so I don't have the pride of sharing true creativity and mastery.
After the band's recruiting and the long months rehearsing, we just all want to gig and share, we have no stress and are happy to be ready.

So yes, even if we are rather humble and will enjoy the moment, we can't say we aren't waiting for the comments afterwards, validating the hard work, and reinforcing our trust :)

Offline Orbert

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Re: Musicians and vanity
« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2017, 07:37:58 AM »
I've never played in a tribute band, but I've always thought of it as going to the "next level" of what cover bands do.  Not only is the goal to replicate songs that others have done as faithfully as possible, but you actually "become" the band, in terms of appearance, stage presence, attitude, all that.  I don't know if that means you're not sharing true creativity and mastery.  There is definitely a challenge in reproducing the work of others.  In some ways, it can even be harder.  When the original band plays a song in concert, they can do whatever they want with it because it's their song.  They can play it faster or slower or whatever, and that's just how they play it live, but if a cover band does that, they're playing it wrong.  Too fast, too slow, etc.  They can skip that one part that really doesn't sound right without all the studio trickery, or just hack through it, and the audience will still eat it up.  If a cover band does that, there's trauma because that one part sounded like shit.  Should've just picked a different song.

I think I know what you mean, though.  You didn't write the music; you're just reproducing it.  But once the song's been written, even the original band is just reproducing it every night.  Mastery and virtuosity can still shine through.  My current band takes a lot of pride in covering some really hard songs, and doing them well.  We've had people tell us that they've never heard a bar band play that song before, and we kicked ass on it.  So it's a different kind of mastery, and I think you're allowed to feel damned good about it if you do it well.

Offline Lax

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Re: Musicians and vanity
« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2017, 09:04:20 AM »
I'm pleased to read such a fast and enlightened answer :)

I used those words because I regret a lack of practice those last years, and not being a virtuoso composer that plays music for a living :D

In France, tribute bands have a lot of success (understand finding some gigs, not becoming rich and famous), and traditionnal cover bands are kind of "always the same since 15 years" (because linked to the bar they play in or because their band holds well in time).

I feel like there are way less bands than before locally and nothing goes in the good way (terrorist attacks on public places and venues partially killed playing outside), we had to search a month for a gig on june the 21th (music day in france).
That saddens me.
Since as an amateur you can only play in bars or in events here, there is nothing like touring sadly, at best you book summer nicer.

About the tribute, if you love the artists and remember that people attending the gig is going to experience a live they probably couldn't see from the original band (because they are dead, split or far), then it's so motivating giving 100% ! :)
We tend to respect the CD version of the songs, and rather add than remove or edit, thought we are the only ones hearing it, often ^^
For us, it's Muse, I know you're not the biggest fan of this rock, but you're right, when it sounds good, epic, rich...It's a glorious feeling.

Offline Stadler

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Re: Musicians and vanity
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2017, 02:08:52 PM »
Isn't there a fine line between "confident" and "vain" here?    I haven't played in a band in about three years now, but when I last did, it was a decent sized ensemble (a Philly String Band) and we were well regarded in the community, and played out often.

For me, there was a modest amount of vanity ("Hey, I can HANG with these guys!") but it mostly manifested itself in the ability to try new things and try to entertain others.   Any pictures taken were really about the entertainment value, but then again, it was a large enough ensemble that even individual shots were still in the context of a group.