The virtuoso musician divides public opinion like no other. Virtuosos are frequently celebrated for their ‘talent’, a term which most often refers to their masterful technical and/or creative abilities. On the other hand, many people will gleefully deride a virtuoso’s creative efforts as ‘unmusical’ – especially if their compositions happen to contain fast passages or unusual tonalities. However, while every person is entitled to their opinions about what music they enjoy (or don’t), I feel that focussing on the complexity of a piece of music, or the technical skills (or lack thereof) that may be required to perform it in the studio or onstage throws up unnecessary barriers between oneself and the opportunity to experience entirely new and exotic musical worlds.
We all know the feeling of being ‘stuck in a rut’, of becoming frustrated with the many limitations that can be throw up by our biology and by the unpredictable twists and turns that life inevitably brings. Today, we are surrounded by an abundance of technologies that can enable us to transcend such limitations – consider the Internet, planes, or the guitar, for instance. Technology has improved our standard of life immensely – but it is easy to forget that that standard of living, our ability to expand ourselves, to experience joy, excitement, and variety, can also be improved still further by the simple application of conscious effort. When our default mode of thinking is to obsess over whether or not a musician is ‘talented’ (or, to use the popular modern classifications, ‘fake’ or ‘real’), or whether their musical efforts are in fact ‘musical’ or ‘unmusical’, we are unwittingly closing ourselves off from an endless parade of very real opportunities to hear and see the world differently. As a result we can doom ourselves to the endless repetition of a handful of experiences, to feelings of monotony and boredom, to becoming stuck in a rut that may seem too deep to escape from. Few of us would willingly choose such a fate, but it is nonetheless an incredibly common problem. Continue reading