Where Does Music Come From?

When I come home on a Friday evening, I pick up an instrument and play. I don’t think. The muse has been ignored for the whole week and the pressure I feel to be the channel for creativity to become real is almost overwhelming.

Like Steven Pressfield, I believe we are channels for this creative force. As a Muslim, I believe that this is a gift from Allah, but you can call this force what you like and ignore that I’m on first name terms with the Creator of All That Is, Was and Ever Shall Be. I’m not too precious about the nomenclature. All I know is that I don’t actually know where the music comes from, just that I’m the channel.

I don’t even know what I’m going to say until I’ve spoken. I don’t know what I’m going to write until I’ve written, and I don’t know what is going to be composed until I pick up an instrument, tonight a guitar, and just play for a few minutes to release whatever it was that needed to come into being. And now it is part of the Creation and I as the medium have served my purpose. It never lets me down, because it is not me that is doing anything. I’m just the servant.

Does it work for people who have no “talent”? Sure. I believe that talent is the accumulation of perfect practice. I subscribe to Gladwell’s “10,000 hours” idea. As a youth, I put a lot of time into practising the bass guitar. As a child, I was the best in my primary school at all the recorders. I learned to just about get by on guitar, to sound out a few handy blues riffs on the harmonica, to play a few notes that sounded OK on a sax. I even learned to sing, just about, but I haven’t hit 10,000 hours in any of those disciplines, with the possible exception of the bass guitar. I did not have talent to begin with. I had a willingness to learn. Call it aptitude, passion, interest, whatever, it’s the thing that sustains you through plateaus and kicks your behind after you’ve been criticised by fools that should know better.

Undeveloped talent is like a radio that isn’t tuned properly. The more you develop your skill, the clearer your reception to the gift of art. There is a point at which your technique becomes the tool of the art. The more finely tuned you are to the source, the greater the range of creative expression you are “gifted” with.

I get a good signal. There is some static, some noise, some feedback, but if I keep putting in the hours, the art will ring like a bell.

One thought on “Where Does Music Come From?”

  1. Uhm. I KIND OF subscribe to the practise practise practice philosophy as you do but I have found, after YEARS of playing in various sessions (Irish), that some people, no matter how much they love music, no matter how much work they put in, no matter how much advice they’re given just do not have that “spark” that really makes the music flow.

    They can get better perhaps but will always be limited. Alas this seems particularly true of singers and drummers (my main’s a bodhran so believe me I’ve heard LOTS of terminal cases).

    I think perhaps there’s a difference. Many people can play an instrument and they can become more accomplished, but some people NEED to play, and that might be the deciding factor. I don’t practice as much as I used to but even so there are those times, not infrequent, when my hands itch and I absolutely MUST play, even if it’s just a book or a half-full coke bottle (the solitary benefit of being a drummer I suppose, nearly anything will do).

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