• INTRODUCTION • RITUAL LOSS • PSYCHOLOGICAL IMPLICATIONS • AUDIOVISUAL PRODUCTION AS A STUDY TOOL • SOCIAL CONTEXT • CONCLUSIONS
Music has always required, as a means of expression, a chain of elements: the sound source, the aerial medium and a receptive element, the listener. The interest and fascination of music certainly lies in its non-unique, non-universal expression. The listener entrusts a message charged with an emotional component to a series of physical processes of rarefaction and aerial compression. This physical process triggers an emotional reaction in the listener, our audience. The emotion can intercept the deep sense imprinted by the performer or take on an autonomous life, awakened by the succession of sounds.
This dimension, in many ways imponderable, was lost with the pandemic due to an alteration of the communication thread. The music came to us without rituals, and above all in the midst of a lot of background noise. Sound production itself was diluted by post-production, editing and uploading of the content.
The listener has lost the concept of expectation, preparation, the company of others in the concert experience. They have also totally lost the silence that precedes the onset of the pieces: the music appears on social media amidst so much other content, published incessantly. Classical music has a structured language and sometimes needs time to explain itself. Not all pieces start with the flair of Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto, and therefore not all of them can effectively impose themselves in a 'noisy' environment. Therefore, many musicians focused on quantity, to try to be present just enough to be seen.
I myself have found myself producing videos more frequently than usual. I've done it partly out of a spirit of sharing (by appealing to the social role of music) and partly (much less nobly) so as not to disappear from the radar of the fierce community of musicians (and guitarists, specifically). At the same time, I've noticed a greater aspiration towards perfectionism, especially technical perfectionism.
This has two implications: a positive one, which pushes us to improve our performance, and a negative one, which fuels our frustration in chasing the 'perfect' performance. Recording, and recording music in general, is a definitive act. You can't just hand over a smudged recording to the internet, especially if you are a musician of a certain level (or aspiring to be one). This, at least, was the tenor of the thoughts that came to my mind, and which formed the solid basis of a burnout, albeit a nuanced one.
The packaging of the artistic product implied an energetic shift: the tension preceding the beginning of the concert was lost in the listener, while in the performer it was replicated as many times as the number of takes needed to record the piece (the takes are the individual recordings of the piece or of a single passage of it, ed.) This tension in the live concert turns into adrenaline, allowing us to initiate and sustain the entire recital. In the video production a state of nervousness remains, which does not dissipate even when the work is finished.
For the purposes of the study, does it make sense to undergo this level of stress? The answer is not clear-cut. If so, you need to supplement your knowledge. The musician needs at least a basic knowledge of video production if he/she is going to work on his/her own, and as they are often students, one cannot afford to pay a professional in the field of video-making. If the answer is no, outsourcers are the solution; the controversial aspect is that, in this mode, the absence (or reduction) of stress is 'bought'.
Of course, there are other reasons to register, outside the production of content for a digital audience. As far as the mere instrumental aspect is concerned, registering is always a good thing. In particular, it is very useful when approaching it on a regular basis. In fact, one can correct any inaccuracies in the tactus (i.e. the rhythmic pulse), verify that one is faithful to the score, and express musical ideas with greater conviction and effectiveness. In this sense, integrating this process into one's study routine is substantial. Under the supervision of a teacher, it can even help with the stress management caused by both recording and stage anxiety.
Directly related to the above topic (stress) is social media. The most well-known social environment is a distorted mirror of 'real' society. They are designed to keep us glued to the screen as much as possible through the repetition of contents that are similar to us. These affinities are identified on the basis of our searches within the social network, the external content we share, the images or videos we post, and our 'likes'. This means that we find ourselves in a bubble, rather than in front of reality, in which our personality reverberates on the contents of other people who are similar to us (source: documentary "The Social Dilemma", directed by Jeff Orlowski).
Secondly, the social environment is also overloaded with content (Facebook has 2.60 billion monthly active users, Instagram 1 billion - source: socialmediamarketing.co.uk). These two aspects make it very difficult to emerge in this magnum sea, as well as to expand one's audience, since what we publish is unlikely to burst the 'bubble' mentioned above.
A partial answer can be found in sponsorship, but it is (again) an elitist and controversial way. It does not necessarily reward merit. So how can this be overcome, given that the frustration mentioned above is compounded by the need for approval that governs the mechanics of these platforms? In addition to internal judgement, there is also the external judgement of the people who will see, comment on and share our videos. One can question how ephemeral virtual approval can be, but it is hard to pretend that it is not a central issue of our time.
The answers to these questions and demands are certainly complex, and everyone can have a legitimate opinion. Today more than ever, awareness needs to be raised: I think it would be interesting for the world of artists to open up and communicate with the public. The system, as it is now, needs to be rethought in our approach to it. If we can learn anything from this forced digital dimension of music, it is surely the integration of recording as a method of study.
Secondly, to acquire tools to express ourselves through a codified, manipulable video language. Some musicians are already moving in this direction, on their own or with the help of professionals (I am thinking in particular of Giulia Ballaré's recent publications on John Cage, in which the video comments on and supports the music, or the Caméra Musique productions). Of course, it is also legitimate (and little explored, in my opinion) to leave this context, pursuing a more traditional musical career, or experimenting with other channels.
I therefore leave the ball to you, the readers, in the hope of having opened up a glimmer of insight into some aspects of artistic production. I hope it has been of interest to you: in general, I like to hear people talk about their profession, and I have used this sentiment in my writing. I also hope that, in my own small way, this editorial will be a stimulus to bring to light new and other issues related to the condition of the musician and the artist in general. I believe that as an Arts and Entertainment community we could be more united: perhaps the path to this unity is through openness about our own problems.