Artist vs. Musician Reprise – inspired by Janice B.


What? Artist VERSUS Musician? What is this about? Don’t they come in one (crazy) package? Well, some do, some don’t. Apparently, I must fall into the latter category according to Janice B.’s brilliantly written contemplation on the subject. Reading her article as to what sets the two apart in a way, reminded me of the first time I may have – more subconsciously – found out about that. I am going to have to elaborate a bit for this statement to make sense.

I started playing in bands at around age 13. I had been playing guitar for four years with some minor formal education for two years until the local music school’s teacher ran out of material to work on by saying something like “I can’t teach you guys anything else.” (doh! LOL). I then continued to work with the only other student in my class and we’d somehow figure out how to play Beatles songs on acoustic guitars and singing along in harmony. Something like that. From that and “performing” around campfires – I was being asked to join a band, which I gladly did. From whatever pocket money I had, I bought my first electric guitar (I recall it being a Fender Stratocaster copy) and shared the guitar amp with the other guitarist in the band. Rehearsals took place in the basement of the keyboardist’s parents house and let’s just say that basement was in questionable condition… But I didn’t care, I was so pumped about being in a band and getting to perform in front of people, I put up with mold, freezing temperatures, damp fingers, lack of light and oxygen for hours on end, bickering and disputes over song arrangements and the correct phrasing of vocal and instrumental parts, the usual amount of friction between “ego mammals”, transportation issues, juggling school and other chores, making time for rehearsals, bugging out Mom to take me there in winter, in other words: The usual “side effects” of being a musician – right? Right.

So, I kept doing that for a while. At 14, a former buddy comes to visit and runs me over with his moped. Result: Ruptured ligament in the left knee, hospitalization for… the entire summer break (6 weeks in my country)! Back in the day, that meant full surgery under anesthesia, total immobility for two weeks after that, cast, crutches for bathroom “breaks”, bed-time, in short: No fun at all! (and this in summer, with high temperatures and such. Can anyone say “scratch me under that thing there? Like NOW!!!!”) My dad signed me out of hospital prematurely, so I got to be in my room at least (right under the roof, during the summer the equivalent of a George Foreman grill for human beings). All my friends were gone for the summer break, so noone came to visit. My sister was out and about. My parents were considerate enough not to go on vacation without me. So, no walking around the house or garden, bathroom breaks had to be scheduled, distraction was scarce. What was I to do? … Yup! You guessed it: Pull out the guitar and play all day! It must have been way above 100 degrees in my room (“I like my wesbound well done, please. Thank you! Got a bun and some mustard to go with that? A cold beer? You know, white people tend to be a little chewy”… LOL). I can still feel the sweat running down my chest and back from only thinking about that. But: I believe it was then when the Muse hit me in full. I would actually listen to the records I played along with, analyze what made ’em great for me, emulate the guitar parts as best as I could and improvise with the modest skills I had then (and consider not to be too different by now). So: This may have well been my defining time as a musician first. I say “musician first”, because as I went along in understanding, what made the greatness of the song for me, I instantly wanted to do like those great composers and artists. Which is how I got into songwriting, I believe.

To come back to the subject at hand being discussed in Janice’s article: I am in total agreement with her as to what makes a musician. And there’s no judging on my part as to that, either, whatsoever. Matter of fact, it is now that I feel the ambition to become a better musician and look into ways of accomplishing that (practicing at home is just a part of that equation). And as to artist: In my book, I believe this species to be a being, who look into ways of expressing themselves and their experiences by way of their artform of choice (music, painting, writing… you name ’em). There is a prevalent urge in saying something in such a way that everyone (with open ears and mind, that is) can relate to it. Much as for Janice, to me the greatest joy and reward in music is to write a song. Work out a chord progression. Find nice sounds to go with that. Optionally lyrics to tell a (personal) story. Make the “inner track” audible to the public. That sort of thing.

I’ve been writing songs eversince (I trashed a large stack of unfinished lyrics when moving out from home at 18). 25 years later – I have just started out (again). With a bit of life on my hands. Some insights, some lessons, some pain and some joy. I consider myself that bottle of wine that stayed dormant in the basement. The door has been opened, new light falls into the room. Time to pick up the narrative and journey.

Care to come along?

Peace,
wesbound, July 2010

P.S.: On a little less serious note: When you forget the lyrics, it’s still better to hum and look involved. Like this:

6 Comments

  1. Love this!! Wow you quoted me!🙂 I love to hear the stories of life long musicians/artists. I’m envious. The one thing in my life I regret (and my mom said I would) is quitting piano lessons as a teenager. Trying to re-learn now is a beast!
    But I guess my point is that I have been a musician and an artist my whole life….I just didn’t own it until much later in life. So much time I wasted!! Oh well…all things happen for a reason and had I chosen a different path I probably wouldn’t know you!

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  2. Hi Janice B.,
    thanks for leading the way with this little thread of ours! No mistakes, just lessons as a dear FB friend of mine would say. Or to paraphrase that: No regrets, just lessons. Yeah, I agree on learning as an adult: It feels harder (notice, how I did not say it actually GOT harder? I don’t think, it does. Only our perception is so clouded that it feels like an effort to push away all prior programming). Just connect with your Muse, try to empty your mind (which will have you relaxed and your body/fingers open to new nerval signals) and go with the flow.

    Born an artist? That opens a new subject🙂 I like your view on having taken a different road! Who knows: If you had continued in teenage years, chances are, you might have dropped it later and entirely so. Now you are equipped with the appreciation for your gift. It’s all good! Thanks for your kind words, b.t.w. – I enjoy knowing you, too!

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  3. To sister J and my buddy Dub. Well written. I got to learn a little more about both of you. I’m sure we could all share some pretty interesting stories. I wouldn’t be surprised at the similarities either.🙂

    Dub. Loving your blogs man. Keep’em coming (but not if it interferes too much with your musicianship / artistry.🙂

    -Brian

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  4. Hi Brian! Great for you to stop by and chime in! I appreciate it! Yeah, I believe that some things music have been international/common all along, even before MySpace, Facebook and the likes🙂 (in particular “paying one’s dues” – I remember you saying that :-)).

    Thanks for your kind words as to my writing. As to “interferes with your musicianship” – Iooks like I was learning some lessons in regard to my online activities… (:o🙂 I wonder, how you’ve been holding up as to that and in finding a good/working balance between that, music, family, your humanitarian work… wow! You must be a time management genius, seriously! (Being a genie as far as music – that is/was pretty obvious from the beginning)

    Thanks man, glad to talk!
    w.

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  5. Hey I’m slacking…I missed all of this thread! Bean you are probably right..we all do have a lot in common and it would be interesting to get us all together. 🙂

    Werner I think that people are surely born with gifts and some people pick up on them very early in life and just run with it. When I look back I was always involved in something creative or musical. I just didn’t take it to the next level. Kind of like my mom….she has a great voice, sings in the choir, but never even thought about performing and she is happy with that.

    I think you can take lessons but if it’s not in you or you weren’t born with the gift you will only go so far. For example I haven’t taken art lessons other than in school…never took a portraiture class and I simply don’t know how I know how to draw faces. I just do it. I know Maurice was picking out melodies on the piano when he was 3 years old. That just comes naturally to you….it’s not a choice..it’s a part of who you are. And learning things as a child is easier because you are just absorbing the info…no second guessing or fear. As adults we sit at the piano and stress over reading each note.
    I’m sure that had I kept taking lessons it would have been effortless for me. There are things as an adult that I know on the keys and I don’t know why I know it. I just absorbed it as a child. But when I play, even though I sometimes struggle with reading the music, I sort of “feel” where my hands should be..where my fingers should land. I think I have that in me…I just never honed it like my grandma did.

    Once Ales is a little older I will resume my lessons and definitely get him playing too. He is already feeling the keys out and doing bass and treble together.

    I’m grateful for all of you because I have learned so much about myself as an artist fron my conversations with you. I’m glad we are all here to walk together on this journey!!

    JB

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  6. Interesting thoughts, Janice, on how you “feel where the hands should land” – I’ve never thought about it much, but now and sometimes in between, I wonder myself where some things come from, that I do not remember having formally learnt/studied/practiced, you know? In particular the entire creative process, that is a total miracle to me – has me baffled myself often.
    I’m glad to learn for you and Alex that he has the gift, also. I am beginning to see (again) that there is hardly anything more rewarding than to go about this gift in some way. And yes – walking together makes the journey all that much sweeter!🙂

    Have an inspired day, Miss B.!

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