Welcome Guest! To enable all features please Login or Register.

Notification

Icon
Error

Forum Jump  
An enjoyable pastime, or your livelihood?
Last post Thu, Apr 28 2022 by agitato, 80 replies.
Options
Go to last post
4 Pages123>»
Posted on Sun, Apr 03 2022 13:44
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 612

There's a world of difference between hobby and livelihood. "Hunger" (literally and metaphorically) drives the latter and mobilises everything you can possibly bring to bear in your work, including, among other things: practically endless courage, care and fortitude; all of your mental faculties and their constant 'sharpening'; the drive, energy and acuity to work ever more efficiently and effectively; harnessing your utmost stamina; embracing and utilising fear and other negative emotions; avoiding undue influences of momentary thrills and satisfactions; and the never-ending quest to "amplify" the actual returns you get from your work. 

Hence it's very probably futile to expect your hobby to somehow morph into your livelihood of its own accord. Either you make the transition as a deliberate and major upheaval in your life, or it just ain't gonna happen.

For the longest time in human history, one could not afford not to be completely and utterly serious about one's livelihood. Nowadays of course there is the safety net of "welfare" provided by the state; nevertheless, top professionals somehow manage to nullify the potentially debilitating influences of that factor's existence.

And what if the work itself involves creativity, such as in any of the fine arts? Can it be taught? Some of the craft can be taught but art cannot be taught. The best one can hope for from any formal educational setup is that it may facilitate one's own learning how to learn; but in the worst cases one may perhaps be able to unlearn the nonsense formally taught that tends to obstruct one's art, even though this may involve many years of arduous effort after one's formal eduction is concluded.

I'm retired now. My professional career was not in the fine arts although it certainly involved creativity, albeit in corporate world. These days I'm an observer of the professional music composition scene and find it fascinating for many reasons. Someone who shares many of the opinions I've outlined above is media composer and educator Guy Michelmore. I heartily recommend his video on this topic:

The Three Things I wish I knew when I started writing music

(I'm in no way affiliated with Guy or ThinkSpace Education.)

"Music embodies feeling without forcing it to contend and combine with thought, as it is forced in most arts and especially in the art of words."
~ Franz Liszt
Posted on Sun, Apr 03 2022 15:59
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5726

When it becomes a livelihood it changes into a source of anxiety. So a professional needs to find a formula that works to remove the anxiety.   On the other hand when it's an art it might not pay any bills but gives some meaning to existence. So the artist can starve in a richly meaningful way.         

Posted on Sun, Apr 03 2022 23:27
by civilization 3
Joined on Sat, May 16 2009, SF Bay Area, Posts 1942

Did Varese make a living?

Did Van Gogh make a living?

I don't find the dichotomy presented at all necessary. The difference is essentially are you someone that likes doing business or at least can find it in them to make a good show of it.

MacBookPro 18,3
Apple M1 Pro: 2.3 GHz 8-core i9

Mac OS 12.3.1
VE Pro 7.1298, Nuendo 11.0.41
Posted on Mon, Apr 04 2022 13:54
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 612

I'm referring to the substantial difference in the power and capabilities of any individual's own internal "engine", when we compare livelihood with hobby. Jovially, this difference could perhaps be likened to "warp drive" and "impulse drive", lol. It's not really a dichotomy; it's not worth trying to treat it dialectically. It's just a big qualitative difference. It's been a commonplace - though still somewhat poorly understood - phenomenon down through the ages; it's not something scarce, obscure or modern.

True, inspiration is less likely to visit in the midst of a state of anxiety. But how many times have we heard great performers telling us about their "stage fright", sometimes even throwing up just before going on stage but then when on stage, giving a fabulous performance?

I don't understand how or why, but the strong emotions (positive and negative) that pop up in professional life are sort of like serious and powerful moments of counselling, persuasion or motivation - these moments pop up, make their mark, then go away; normally they don't hang around. However, some of these moments very probably do have long-term consequences - and I'd say usually for the better, so long as one's emotional faculties are normal and healthy.

We may desire or choose to be in a more or less perpetually calm, safe and comfortable state of existence; but that is to deprive ourselves of the benefits of participation by strong emotions. I'm not saying it's a healthy kind of life - so many great composers and artists died young,

How much of a successful composition can be called art is, for purposes of the point I'm trying to make here, moot; I daren't go there right now. Perhaps I will just venture to say that any work of composition that is completely devoid of art is extremely unlikely ever to make the big time - but conversely, that's not to say that "piling on the art" will necessarily attract public success. Insofar as there is a "safe" bet, I'd say "seasonable" is the way. Don't frighten the horses, and don't alienate the people.

"Music embodies feeling without forcing it to contend and combine with thought, as it is forced in most arts and especially in the art of words."
~ Franz Liszt
Posted on Mon, Apr 04 2022 16:17
by Jerry Gerber
Joined on Thu, Jan 19 2006, San Francisco, CA USA, Posts 401

Originally Posted by: Macker Go to Quoted Post
There'sa world of difference between hobby and livelihood. "Hunger" (literally and metaphorically) drives the latter and mobilises everything you can possibly bring to bear in your work, including, among other things:practically endless courage, care and fortitude;all of your mental faculties and their constant 'sharpening';the drive, energy and acuity to work ever more efficiently and effectively; harnessingyour utmost stamina; embracing and utilising fear and other negative emotions; avoiding undue influences of momentary thrills and satisfactions; and the never-ending quest to "amplify" the actual returns you get from your work.

No matter if you're born
To play the King or pawn
For the line is thinly drawn 'tween joy and sorrow
So my fantasy
Becomes reality
And I must be what I must be and face tomorrow

                                                                          From Paul Simon's song Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall

I think Macker is wrong about this. Having spent my entire adult life writing music, both for money and not for money, I know from experience that the line between a professional and an amateur is very thin indeed. It takes the same courage, discipline, self-confidence and fortitude, perhaps even more so, to write music that isn't motivated by money as it does to earn a living composing, if one is genuinely serious about their work. I write music, period. Whether it's a job, a career, a profession or a "hobby" really makes no difference to me. I show up every day to my studio to work whether or not someone is paying me.

I was in Los Angeles many years ago and speaking with a composer who wrote for PBS documentaries. He thought I was nuts to write music if I were not getting paid to do so. He even said, his exact words were "music composition is dead if you're not doing soundtracks". I pitied the poor soul. This conversation showed me the difference between an artist, a true composer, and a hack. The hack has nothing real to communicate in music, the hack has no voice. To the hack it's a job, nothing more, nothing less. Of course there are plenty of "true composers" that write crappy music, perhaps more than ever. But that's an entirely different issue.

Don't misunderstand me, soundtrack work can be enjoyable and meaningful if you're working on a project that inspires you to write the best music you can. Some films and TV shows succeed in doing this and can bring out the very best in a composer. Some of the projects I worked on brought out the best in me. But some were simply jobs, I needed the money so I did the work to the best of my ability, without the inspiration or artistic fervor I prefer.

I'm one of the lucky few who was able to stop scoring soundtracks because I no longer needed to from a financial perspective. Had I not made good investment decisions and not been lucky, I'd still be "in the rat race", the highly competitive field of scoring to picture. I don't know how many trained and talented composers would choose a path similar to mine if money were not an issue. Since most films are a waste of time to watch, choosing a path where you must serve a project you don't really believe in wasn't what I wanted to do. I chose to follow my own artistic vision rather than support the vision of a director or producer whose work doesn't mean anything to me. You cannot do that if you want a film-scoring career, at least not if you don't score a project that makes a ton of money for those invested in it.

There's a book called "The War of Art" which, like Macker, espouses the idea that there's this great difference between the professional and the amateur. Sure, there can be a difference, but it's also true that in some people there's no difference at all. Hunger and poverty can be great motivators to get your ass in gear and do what ever it takes to survive. But being free of hunger and poverty means you have the freedom and the responsibility to use your time wisely, well and intelligently. This is what artists do when they are fully committed, hungry or not.

Jerry

Posted on Mon, Apr 04 2022 16:39
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 612

Interesting comments, Jerry. And of course I readily accept that there are exceptions, including yourself.

I'd wonder, however, if your approach to your music writing today would be what it is if you hadn't, for some substantial period of time, previously been immersed in the pro world? It's probably a silly and hopeless question to ask - it's always very hard to know for sure about "what if" scenarios. But I'm thinking that the majority of hobbyists and hopeful amateurs, never having been exposed to pro work in music-making, might never be able to cotton onto ways of securing the integrity, seriousness and self-discipline you speak of - unless they actually go pro, at least for a while, and experience and learn lessons from the realities for themselves.

"Music embodies feeling without forcing it to contend and combine with thought, as it is forced in most arts and especially in the art of words."
~ Franz Liszt
Posted on Mon, Apr 04 2022 17:07
by Jerry Gerber
Joined on Thu, Jan 19 2006, San Francisco, CA USA, Posts 401

Originally Posted by: Macker Go to Quoted Post

Interesting comments, Jerry. And of course I readily accept that there are exceptions, including yourself.

I'd wonder, however, if your approach to your music writing today would be what it is if you hadn't, for some substantial period of time, previously been immersed in the pro world? It's probably a silly and hopeless question to ask - it's always very hard to know for sure about "what if" scenarios. But I'm thinking that the majority of hobbyists and hopeful amateurs, never having been exposed to pro work in music-making, might never be able to cotton onto ways of securing the integrity, seriousness and self-discipline you speak of - unless they actually go pro, at least for a while, and experience and learn lessons from the realities for themselves.

Maybe, maybe not, depends on the person.  I know that having to write on deadlines certainly helped me to realize both the benefits and pitfalls of external deadlines.  The benefit being the focus and discipline necessary to meet the deadline, the pitfall is that if you try to do something creative but cannot take your time about it, it's very possible to end up not writing your best music.  It's sort of like trying to rush a flower to grow, or to ask a woman to delivery a baby in 6 months rather than 9.  It's not going to work. 

In my own personal work, I give myself deadlines, but they are deadlines that enable me to write, rewrite and rewrite as often as necessary to get the best possible results.  In commercial work we don't have that luxury and so even though writing fast is an important skill, it's not what really counts.  Does it matter that it took Brahms 25 years to write his first symphony?  What matters are results.  Even though it's impressive that Mozart wrote his Symphony #40 in six weeks or less, what really matters are the results.  Same with a film score.  If you give the composer(s) (there are now very often more than one composer on a film project) ample time, you'll probably get a better score.

Posted on Mon, Apr 04 2022 17:57
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5726

That's a great post by jsg, and so true - the line between amateur and professional is often someone just figuring out a trick of how to sell what was already being done.  Sometimes that trick is impossible to figure out though. As civilization3  mentioned, Van Gogh - who couldn't sell any paintings except to his brother, but now one of them goes for millions. Or Mahler - he was considered an arrogant conductor doing vanity projects with his symphonies in his own time - but now the greatest symphonist since Beethoven. Or to be more insanely wide-ranging H.P. Lovecraft who in his own time was almost completely unknown and only sold stories to pulp magazines, doing ghost writing on the side to earn a few extra dollars. Now he is an entire culture with multiple luxurious editions of his collected works translated into every language. So those artists didn't figure out the trick but kept working on things that could as easily be huge successes commercially. 

Another aspect is how J. S. Bach was writing cantatas on a weekly basis for a job, but then would turn around and work on Art of the Fugue written for nothing.  Or Schubert sitting in a cafe scribbling down a great melody just for the hell of it.  That person jsg mentioned who said music is dead unless it's soundtracks - what a sick mind! One could write a sonata for Ophicleide and Zither and it would be worthwhile if it was good  music. 

Also concerning deadlines and the need to get something finished I completely agree that they can be helpful or really ruinous, .  And my point about anxiety was - sometimes a professional situation creates a negative attitude because one is being forced to hurry up and do something and there just is no inspiration.  The ideal situation of a great film just begging for great music is not the norm, that is for certain.  One thinks of Herrmann getting the opportunity to score Hitchcock's Vertigo - that sort of situation doesn't usually happen.  More like an opportunity for powerful, heartrending music underscoring a promotional film about a golf course.  At least that's my experience.  It's part of why I decided to make my own films and then score them - at least I can't complain about the director being an idiot. Well, maybe I can but I keep it to myself.           

Posted on Wed, Apr 06 2022 14:46
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 612

I'm most grateful to you gentlemen for the stimulating insights you've provided on this topic - and you've enabled me to reconsider my main proposition more incisively.

I'm content to stand by the proposition that there is - generally speaking - a world of difference between the amateur and the professional, in terms of mentality and activity. Common everyday experience furnishes abundant evidence of this difference. And yes of course one can always find fringe cases and notable exceptions. When has human existence ever been a matter of black-and-white, cut-and-dried categories? (Well, perhaps Disney might want to take out a 'contract' on me for saying that, lolol.)

That said, I'd readily agree that we might be falling foul of usage of certain words and their meanings or connotations here. Let's see if I can tidy things up a bit.

Not all amateurs or hobbyists are dilettanti, and not all dilettanti are amateurs or hobbyists. I suppose much of what I've tried to set forth in this thread is just another instance of the ages-old complaints against dilettantism. Amateurs and hobbyists can, if they so choose, focus only on their own particular delights in music and music making, without bothering with any real commitment to the vast panoply of knowledge, craft and skills that adept composers typically strive to acquire, maintain and develop in their music endeavours. In this case they could rightly be described as dilettanti. And still yet it doesn't necessarily follow that composers who have huge amounts of knowledge and skills under their belt will be successful as composers - professionally or not.

But there's something else in that mental state we call "commitment". I'll call it "service". Do you seriously want and intend to be of service to others, the potential 'customers' or 'consumers' of your music? Or are you merely interested in pleasing and delighting yourself, perhaps aiming always only for "solitary intoxication"? Of course one must enjoy and appreciate one's own music first and foremost. But what if the dilettante has tastes and sensibilities not only not commonly shared among many others, but also broadly avoided, shunned or even reviled? In that case I'd want to encourage the dilettante just to enjoy himself and not worry about trying to make it a livelihood.

Yes there are talented innovators who step out beyond the norms, and whose innovative works - though perhaps not immediately accessible - attract and eventually entice many others to step beyond their accustomed norms to assimilate and ultimately 'naturalise' the innovations. On the other hand, there is that problematic minority who are simply incapable of ever seeing, hearing or feeling 'through' the senses, sensibilities and feelings of others, and who typically try to bluff and fake their way into appearing to be taking part in normal social intercourse. And how many times have we seen examples of the latter trying to pass themselves off as the former?

But tasteless nincompoops, talented innovators and narc fakers are largely outside the community I'm focused on here: specifically, hobbyists and amateurs who don't know that they haven't yet marshalled all of their potential internal resources and capabilities. Cultivating serious commitment to being - potentailly at some future time - of service to others, is, I contend, one of the simplest keys to unlocking much of the as yet untapped resources and capabilities within oneself. Following a firm commitment of that kind, the ambition and extra work involved in acquiring highest possible levels of relevant knowledge and skills, pretty much fall into place and into line as natural consequences.

Throughout the history of civilisation, countless numbers of people in all walks of life have made that transition.  It's far from being a matter of knowing some sort of esoteric formula or "life-coaching" method. Nor is it a case of having to attend the 'right' university, academy or conservatory. In the broadest and most general terms, isn't it very similar to becoming an adult? And just because there's art involved, it's not something entirely unique and a special case way out there all on its own. Whether or not it is or will become your livelihood, your serious  commitment to "service" is central to the world of difference I've tried to describe above. Let the dilettanti be as irresponsible and self-serving as they wish - that's their choice, and a choice that's not without its consequences.

"Music embodies feeling without forcing it to contend and combine with thought, as it is forced in most arts and especially in the art of words."
~ Franz Liszt
Posted on Wed, Apr 06 2022 16:30
by Jerry Gerber
Joined on Thu, Jan 19 2006, San Francisco, CA USA, Posts 401

Originally Posted by: Macker Go to Quoted Post

But there's something else in that mental state we call "commitment". I'll call it "service". Do you seriously want and intend to be of service to others, the potential 'customers' or 'consumers' of your music? Or are you merely interested in pleasing and delighting yourself, perhaps aiming always only for "solitary intoxication"? Of course one must enjoy and appreciate one's own music first and foremost. But what if the dilettante has tastes and sensibilities not only not commonly shared among many others, but also broadly avoided, shunned or even reviled? In that case I'd want to encourage the dilettante just to enjoy himself and not worry about trying to make it a livelihood.

A sense of service is what distinguishes a mature person from an immature person.  The ability and desire to be of use to others and to actualize that IS important, and not just for composers and artists but for every social being.   That being said, like all virtues, the desire to serve can be twisted, manipulated, distorted and used in destructive or just plain idiotic ways.  A lot depends on why a person wants to be of service--is it out of love for others and humanity?  Is it simply masquerading as service when the stronger motivation is egoistic craving for fame and wealth?  It's hard to tell, most people have multiple motivations, often contradictory.  None of us are perfect, but most of us, given enough time, are perfectible.  I don't think that can happen in one lifetime, but that's for another topic altogether.

For example, a young man wants to be of service to his nation so he joins the military.  He wants to do good, to protect his fellow citizens from harm.  But that nation has a deeply pathological, sadistic and narcissistic leader who cannot distinguish his egoistic ambitions from his hyper-nationalistic impulses.  So he starts a war against a nation that is of no threat to his nation; he does so because he wants to steal their oil, or their land, or he wants to be remembered as a great conquering hero to his people.   So the young man's sincere service motive gets used against him as he is ordered to kill others and possibly get killed himself.  This scenario is common throughout history and is being played out again in our supposedly 21st century "civilized" world.

Another example, far more benign, is an artist wants to be of service.  So she begins working for a giant media corporation that has one primary aim--financial profit.  What happens to the the artistic impulse, the desire to say something, to communicate beauty or truth to one's fellows?  Year after year, this corporation turns out product with predictable endings, predictable stories, predictable characters--because they stick to what sells, what the masses will "consume" (funny term, I can see myself consuming a sandwich but I've never thought of myself as consuming a recording, a book or a film).  Is the artist happy with their own work?  Do they believe in how their art is being used?  Maybe, maybe not. Again, it's complicated because each of us is a unique individual. 

So, yes, service is a virtue to which we all ought to value and strive for to the best of our ability. I know I am performing a service when I put time, energy, talent, creativity, imagination, skill and knowledge into writing a symphony that most people don't care about and won't bother to listen to.  When I was scoring industrial films I remember sitting there one morning in my studio watching a "scene" of a heat pump that "needed" background music. I was performing a service as defined by market-place values because I was getting paid to do it.  But what was I serving exactly?  Was I not just serving an idea about industry, capitalism and technology?   I certainly was not serving art.  So it's complicated, very complicated.  The fantasy of the lone composer working in isolation is not appealing to me because I am a highly social and gregarious personality; it's fair to question who and what is being served by such behavior.  But when I know I have the freedom to write music that means something deeply to myself, I have unshakeable faith that I am also serving something beyond myself, I am in service to beauty, to intellectual life, perhaps even to the cosmos in some meaningful, purposeful, almost superconscious way. 

When I was a young man I took pride in believing that I was an independent thinker.  But I've lately come to realize my thinking is utterly dependent upon truth, sincerity, reason and imagination--without those my thinking is just mechanical, "roof-brain chatter" almost worse than not thinking at all.  I'm going to be quiet now. I wish you all well.

Jerry

Posted on Thu, Apr 07 2022 00:52
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5726

"I put time, energy, talent, creativity, imagination, skill and knowledge into writing a symphony..."

"my thinking is utterly dependent upon truth, sincerity, reason and imagination..."  - jsg

Wow!  You are so far beyond me.  Do you also fight for Truth, Justice and the American Way?  

Posted on Thu, Apr 07 2022 22:31
by Errikos
Joined on Tue, Jun 12 2007, Posts 1114

I would like to participate in this discussion, but I find it impossible if the words professional, amateur, hobbyist, dilettante are not defined and related to musical composition.

For example, Varèse was mentioned. He may not have made a lot of money from his works, but he didn’t write too many of them either. A huge amounts of them were, admittedly, experiments (not even experimental). Also, he lived around the same time as Stravinsky, Rachmaninov, Sibelius, Strauss, and Ravel, to name a few. If you had any money, who would you throw it at? However, not only was he an innovator, but he had somebody like Stokowski eagerly awaiting for his next scribblings. He studied with d’Indy. For his whole life he was rubbing shoulders with the elite of the music world. So, what was he?

See my third post, paragraph 8.

But don’t forget!… He knew everything about music backwards! He didn’t just buy a laptop and watched a few videos. Stokowski would not have used his music to scrape muck off his tyres had that been the case.

Contrarily: Hans doesn’t know his German 6th chord from his bootstrap (not to mention the French and Italian 6ths). Be that as it may, the door is coming off its hinges as everybody who can afford him is begging/banging to commission him. He is already reeking rich, marketing himself as a composer - film composer if we must. What is he?

What was Sorabji? More or less professional than Hans? Or John Williams for that matter?

These are questions the answers to which do not easily find consensus. However, be careful. I know for a fact that there are huge nannies on this forum. Do you really wish to open this particular can of worms? Find out whether your fellow forumites consider you a ‘Professional’? If you want to have this discussion, have it out properly. Don’t run sobbing to Dietz later…

If you can't notate/MIDI it yourself, it's NOT your music!

In these modern days to be vulgar, illiterate, common and vicious, seems to give a man a marvelous infinity of rights that his honest fathers never dreamed of. - Oscar Wilde
Posted on Fri, Apr 08 2022 01:42
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5726

My concept of these definitions is - professional means someone who makes a living off music, and it can be great music like Bernard Herrmann (in film music) or wretched music that somehow fills the commercial purpose (like a hack in the 1940s who plagiarized Rachmaninoff phrase by phrase because the producer wanted something "Romantic").  Amateur is anyone from a rank newbie to a great artist like Charles Ives who HAD to be an amateur because his music was too advanced for people during his lifetime and he couldn't even submit it for approval to the establishment, let alone make any money off it.  Hobbyist is a person who simply enjoys music and may create something very good or bad, but not necessarily either; however, other musicians would be incensed to be called "hobbyist" as it implies they are not truly dedicated to their work as a drive for meaning in their lives, which comes from elsewhere, i.e. : selling insurance, working at a pharmacy, making contract killings, etc .  A dilettante  is a complex term, as it has referred in various eras to exceptionally talented persons  who don't need to do something but do so for the mere fun of it -  perhaps creating something wonderful -  or to shallow buffoons who are merely screwing around.

Concerning Varese - he is beyond any professional, because he is a genius who created a new musical language.  That cannot be classified in any group as each person who has done this is in his own classification.

John Williams I admire greatly because even though I loathe some of the films he scored, he was always trying to create interesting musical ideas for whatever he was offered, and he achieved a style of his own despite the snarky critics he has amassed who claim he plagiarizes - he does not truly plagiarize (and don't post examples of what sounds similar - thanks but I already know all of those) but rather, he has his own beautiful and powerful style influenced by the composers he knows in detail and loves, and it is a style which other people have now plagiarized.  

Posted on Fri, Apr 08 2022 03:06
by Jerry Gerber
Joined on Thu, Jan 19 2006, San Francisco, CA USA, Posts 401

Originally Posted by: William Go to Quoted Post

My concept of these definitions is - professional means someone who makes a living off music, and it can be great music like Bernard Herrmann (in film music) or wretched music that somehow fills the commercial purpose (like a hack in the 1940s who plagiarized Rachmaninoff phrase by phrase because the producer wanted something "Romantic").  Amateur is anyone from a rank newbie to a great artist like Charles Ives who HAD to be an amateur because his music was too advanced for people during his lifetime and he couldn't even submit it for approval to the establishment, let alone make any money off it.  Hobbyist is a person who simply enjoys music and may create something very good or bad, but not necessarily either; however, other musicians would be incensed to be called "hobbyist" as it implies they are not truly dedicated to their work as a drive for meaning in their lives, which comes from elsewhere, i.e. : selling insurance, working at a pharmacy, making contract killings, etc .  A dilettante  is a complex term, as it has referred in various eras to exceptionally talented persons  who don't need to do something but do so for the mere fun of it -  perhaps creating something wonderful -  or to shallow buffoons who are merely screwing around.

Concerning Varese - he is beyond any professional, because he is a genius who created a new musical language.  That cannot be classified in any group as each person who has done this is in his own classification.

John Williams I admire greatly because even though I loathe some of the films he scored, he was always trying to create interesting musical ideas for whatever he was offered, and he achieved a style of his own despite the snarky critics he has amassed who claim he plagiarizes - he does not truly plagiarize (and don't post examples of what sounds similar - thanks but I already know all of those) but rather, he has his own beautiful and powerful style influenced by the composers he knows in detail and loves, and it is a style which other people have now plagiarized.  

I mostly agree with William and Errikos and have one more aspect of this discussion to add.   In many professional fields there are some kind of licensing and objective educational qualifications required.  A doctor can't be an "amateur"; a doctor has to go to an accredited medical school, pass certain state tests and qualifications and even do post-medical school work as a residence in a hospital setting before being able to hang up a sign and say "I'm a doctor".  Similar with lawyers, stock-brokers, airline pilots and financial advisors.  NASA isn't going to hire someone to write software for controlling satellites that fly out to distant planets or manage the assembly of spacecraft without that person having a PhD in physics or engineering, etc.   Not that there won't be quacks or unethical people who fall through the cracks, but in general there is some organized, official method to determine if one has the ability, education and qualifications to practice their profession. 

Obviously not so in the arts.  There are no qualifications to be a film composer or TV composer, other than having someone believe that you are capable of doing the job. You might have a degree or three in music, but then again you might not have any degree at all.  You might be a virtuoso player but then again you may just be adequate on your instrument.  There is no licensing, nobody sits on state boards to check periodically if a composer is keeping up with the latest developments in composition.  These facts contribute, I think, to the inability to draw a clear line between the amateur and the professional.

In earlier times a professional was recognized as someone with superior knowledge or skill, someone who could profess to know something about a subject.  Before that the term even had religious implications in the church.  But in today's ultra-capitalist world, the term simply means one makes money doing it.  So we have professional sex workers, professional drug dealers, professional salesmen, and I do not mean this disrespectfully, only that we've limited the term to involve earning money at something.  Whether one is really good at it, or has mastered their skill set and has a broad and deep knowledge of their subject seems mostly irrelevant in the arts. 

I am not sure what Macker's motivations are for taking the positions that he takes, I also don't know if he might entertain some illusions about what professional scoring is about or whether he's ever made a living composing.   Perhaps necessity is the mother of invention, but personal commitment is the father.  Sometimes an artist is driven by the need to make money and survive and sometimes that artist is already surviving and prospering and is seeking a quality of expression that doesn't quite fit into the what the marketplace is looking for. 

It's easy to get addicted to success.  We always want more of it.  Lily Tomlin once said if a person wins the rat-race they are still just a rat.   A mature, wise and discerning individual learns both the meaning of success and the human values that underlie real success.   If fame, money, status and power are the sole criteria for judging success we will find our world increasingly selfish, ignorant, divided, violent and dumbed-down by propaganda and lies.  And that makes it harder for each one of us to be happy. 

Jerry

Posted on Fri, Apr 08 2022 04:58
by agitato
Joined on Mon, Jun 22 2015, Posts 441

Originally Posted by: William Go to Quoted Post

John Williams I admire greatly because even though I loathe some of the films he scored, he was always trying to create interesting musical ideas for whatever he was offered, and he achieved a style of his own despite the snarky critics he has amassed who claim he plagiarizes - he does not truly plagiarize (and don't post examples of what sounds similar - thanks but I already know all of those) but rather, he has his own beautiful and powerful style influenced by the composers he knows in detail and loves, and it is a style which other people have now plagiarized.  

While I have much to learn from this thread and little to contribute, I wanted to give a thumbs up to this comment by William. I agree very much and feel that those who claim JW plagiarizes are plain stupid and ignorant of how music really works. They do not realize that by their logic most classical composers stole from others. Williams is way above his own music. What he wrote for films, even though they are more sophisticated than 99% of other film music, was like child's play for him. His concert works are just as great as some of the greatest 20th century modern classical composers. The talent of this living legend is simply staggering,

I would even argue Williams is among the 100 greatest composers in history for his unique style of blending of modern atonal techniques with romanticism. This is self evident now that his work is becoming standard repertoire for the worlds greatest orchestras.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsMWVW4xtwI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmsEJY08jEg

Anand Kumar
Posted on Fri, Apr 08 2022 15:52
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 612

Errikos, once again you've helped me question, refocus, revise and clarify my mind on a topic at hand; I'm most grateful to you.

Unfortunately for any science or even philosophy on this topic, we're all up a gum tree - and I do mean everyone. It's still not known what music does to and for us as individuals, nor to and for our cultures. So how can we possibly know with clear and rational certainty how and why any particular composition or composer is more or less worthy than another? Well, though intractable to science, we're not dealing here with complete imponderables; we can and often do intuitively gauge the weight and worth of a composition or a composer.

Let's look back to a time long before universities taught everything and academic qualifications pretty much dictated what 'professional' services one should and shouldn't be trusted to provide for others. Hasn't there always been a 'Rubicon' in any earnest endeavour? For instance, we'd never confuse a child with a blacksmith, nor an archer with someone who just likes to throw sticks, nor a storyteller with someone who likes to sing a ditty now and then.

We naturally get to know the métier of particular individuals in our communities. And when it's known that a person's métier is backed, developed and maintained by their longstanding and serious commitment, devotion, fidelity and sacrifice, we're far more likely to avail ourselves of their services - we know the person has crossed the 'Rubicon' in their life. And of course word gets around. Today, perhaps this isn't as commonplace an intuitive matter of everyday experience and common sense as it used to be. Yet I believe the basics of this ages-old social and cultural phenomenon are still there, somewhere, in all of us.

The word "professional" can mean someone who makes a living in some particular endeavour; but also someone who has been professed into a faith, i.e. been received into a religious order under vows. So there is this communal or public dimension to the word "profess"; it involves more than simply what an individual is apt to aver. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the derivation of "profess" as from the Latin "profess-", meaning "declared publicly", from the verb "profiteri", from pro- "before" + fateri "confess".

Culturally speaking, it's long been a serious and even solemn matter to designate someone as a professional, reflecting the fact that the individual has been publicly acknowledged as having crossed the Rubicon in his or her life, having made a deliberate and all-encompassing commitment to a particular occupation.

The dilletante, by contrast, makes no such commitment to acquiring relevant knowledge and skills, nor to being of service to anyone. He crosses no Rubicon in his life, all options are still open and available - or so he likes to think. As I use the word, the dilettante can be seen as the very worst kind of amateur - irresponsible and wholly self-serving, and perhaps self-deluding, grandiose and antisocial too. In other words, he's the last type of person from whom society would expect or seek a worthy service. Their self-expression may not be linked in any meaningful way to society at large, perhaps instead arising from some abstruse intellectual constructs, ideals, or just plain old puerile wishful thinking. It seems unlikely to find dilettanti among those who've been through the academic mill in music; but I suppose it's possible, especially nowadays when universities seem to be making their (incredibly expensive) courses ever more comfortable, attractive, easy and fun for any and all students.

What's in the back of my mind here is the worry about today's ever increasing tendency to presume - with militant obstinacy - that one can be whatever one chooses to be, by simple act of will. History and all common sense is against such immature, irresponsible and antisocial nonsense; but that just seems to inspire the culprits to up the ante and double down on their preposterous schemes. JP Sears - with cruel comedic aplomb - hilariously parodies an example here:

The best female swimmer in the world

"Music embodies feeling without forcing it to contend and combine with thought, as it is forced in most arts and especially in the art of words."
~ Franz Liszt
Posted on Fri, Apr 08 2022 18:36
by Jerry Gerber
Joined on Thu, Jan 19 2006, San Francisco, CA USA, Posts 401

Originally Posted by: Macker Go to Quoted Post

What's in the back of my mind here is the worry about today's ever increasing tendency to presume - with militant obstinacy - that one can be whatever one chooses to be, by simple act of will. History and all common sense is against such immature, irresponsible and antisocial nonsense; but that just seems to inspire the culprits to up the ante and double down on their preposterous schemes. JP Sears - with cruel comedic aplomb - hilariously parodies an example here:

The best female swimmer in the world

Macker,

Since you continue to hammer this point to death I am wondering if what really worries you is how you see yourself. Why are you so concerned with this issue in the first place? You have no control over what others do or don't do, you have no control over how others view themselves.  Is there something in your own life that you passionately want to do but are not doing?  I suspect there's some psychological projection going on here and projection easily degrades into insincerity.   Post some music and let your music speak for itself.  Music can say things words cannot.  If it didn't, we wouldn't need to compose.  I've already spent too much time in this discussion.  I keep forgetting how important it is for some people to feel like they're right.  OK. Be right if that's your aim.  I've got nothing more to say in words on this topic.

Posted on Fri, Apr 08 2022 20:20
by Errikos
Joined on Tue, Jun 12 2007, Posts 1114

Macker: What a brilliant example! So apt in this case! I could write pages upon pages arguing points and you did it with a simple link!.. [But please guys. Stay off politics if we wish to keep this forum as free of censorship as possible.]

Since chemistry and biology mean nothing these days, I will share the finest one-liner I received this past year: “I identify myself as vaccinated and expect to be treated as such!” Just change ‘vaccinated’ to ‘the greatest composer in the world’ and you’ve got it. Since people on this forum are so sensitive when it comes to their music and others’ perception thereof (I personally don’t consider the vast majority here even amateurs, let alone professionals - for an example of the musical standard of a universally recognised as amateur/dilettante composer, back when words had meaning, have a listen to the following: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDhbV_LeGWY), let’s shift the paradigm to another discipline.

You mentioned Philosophy. How many people habitually say “My philosophy on this subject is …”? Are they professional philosophers? Are they even amateur or hobbyist philosophers? Do they belong to a specific school of philosophy? Have they created their own? Do they hold a degree in philosophy? How many philosophers have they actually read (not Alain de Botton; actual philosophical texts)? Are they up to date with current academic scholarship on the subject? The list of questions can easily continue. Don't they really mean "What I think is..."? I was in the ‘science stream’ in high school, I have read many lay books on science and mathematics, I was always interested. Can I join a scientists/mathematicians forum (not a manufacturers’ forum like the VSL - that is a very important point!) because my computer has a scientific calculator (which I can use) and a Grapher, and introduce myself there as one of the boys? I will rightly be laughed out of the virtual room.

Whenever I find myself around a table when people begin a discussion on Christian dogma, I refuse to participate. When I'm asked why I won't contribute, I say that I would be interested in exchanging ideas solelywith people who have read at least the New Testament, at least once, from first line to last. Otherwise, what exactly would I be discussing?

I consider myself a voracious reader so I am familiar with quite a bit of the classical canon as well as with more recent, popular offerings. I speakthe language to an adequate degree. If I start writing storIes and regularly share them on a forum similar to this one (say the Scrivener forum), am I a professional writer? An amateur writer? A dilettante, or a hobbyist? Iam actually writing a short stories book.Ifthis book ever gets published (not self-published) and if it achieves good reviews and half-decent sales (I'm not really anticipating any of this to happen), then I will consider myself to be an amateur writer, at best. Otherwise, I will remain a hobbyist.

I think most people buried inside the diurnal grind of completing works with actual deadlines care about whether they are considered to be professional or not. I think most of the rest wish to be recognised as 'artists'.

Best of luck with that!..

As I am actually rather tired, I am going to pick this up again later.

If you can't notate/MIDI it yourself, it's NOT your music!

In these modern days to be vulgar, illiterate, common and vicious, seems to give a man a marvelous infinity of rights that his honest fathers never dreamed of. - Oscar Wilde
Posted on Fri, Apr 08 2022 21:34
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5726

agitato,

Wow, I listened to the first John Williams and that performance is fabulous!  Such great music and fantastically played.  I have to play that again on my best speaker system full blast. 

Posted on Sat, Apr 09 2022 01:16
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 612

Jerry, let me fill you in on my position. (I've previously mentioned this boring stuff about me in this forum.) I'm retired; my sacrifices at the altar of hi-tech design engineering began a very long time ago; I was fortunate enough to have an interesting, fulfilling and I hope useful career in that discipline; I don't think I have it in me now to cross another Rubicon in my life. Currently I'm not writing music to put out there; right now I'm content to leave that to adepts. Perhaps one day I might put out an original composition, but that would be entirely my decision, nobody else's. I certainly do plan to put out some mockups of a few famous works to demonstrate my orchestral intonation subsystem for Logic Pro, but that's another story.

Errikos mentioned some semantic difficulties germane to the topic here. And I agree with him. The more I think about it and try to settle the semantic issues as I see them, the more fraught with complexity and tricky nuances the topic becomes - lol, comme d'habitude. I don't think we've satisfactorily settled many issues here in how best to define dilettanti, hobbyists, amateurs and professionals in music composition.

Nevertheless I hope I've made the point that having 'crossed the Rubicon' is a fair and general enough criterion or at least indicator, that has long been pertinent in intuitively distinguishing 'pros' from 'amateurs', and in estimating a composer's chances of at least satisfying non-paying audiences, if not making composition a livelihood. It's probably impossible to cover all exceptions - real and imagined.

Save for perhaps having an enjoyable and rare blah with Errikos, and making one more point a bit later, I've done what I can here.

"Music embodies feeling without forcing it to contend and combine with thought, as it is forced in most arts and especially in the art of words."
~ Franz Liszt
4 Pages123>»
You cannot post new threads in this forum.
You cannot reply to threads in this forum.
You cannot delete your posts in this forum.
You cannot edit your posts in this forum.
You cannot create polls in this forum.
You cannot vote in polls in this forum.