Preface: I’m currently in my 13th year of school, and final year of high school. I’ve spent the last 3 years studying music here in Trondheim.
As always, I had a few band practices after school today. Today those were particularily tiring. It had been a month where I havent had a single weekend off, and I had already practiced for 3-4 hours that day, and the same for the days before. I also managed to forget my lunch at home, and was therefore a lot hungrier than what I usually was.
We have a sort of running joke which isn’t really a joke in my class, at least between those of us who want to go on and study music. Basically we ask each other what the hell we’re doing with our lives whenever we have some “dumb” jobs or those 10-11 hour days we often have to pull. We ask why we choose to study music and try to pursue music after high school, even though we know it’s a super hard industry to make it in both as a working musician and as an artist.
We’re willingly heading into an industry where you’ll most likely end up making quite a bit less than what you could do elsewhere, and where there’s very little job security. Many days will be more than 7.5 hours (Norwegian standard), and work hours vary a lot. In return, you don’t get an employment and the benefits it brings, and you’re going to be in a pretty hard situation if you get an injury. If I’m in a traffic accident one day and loose my hand, I won’t be able to play bass probably ever again.
It’s a tough industry, and it’s an extremely luck based industry in every way. We’re also fighting upwards as there are those of us who are lucky and privileged enough to “pay” their way through in it, or who have families who’ve already made it. If you got money, you can easily pay for a studio production with co-writers. If not, you’ll have to do it yourself. In my case, no one else in my family has done music in their adult life, and I need to win grants if I want to get myself an upright bass.
I had a short break of about 15 minutes between my first and second practice today. Since I live close to my high school, that meant I could run home and pick up my lunch. I did that and made it back just in time for my second practice. I had to eat a little bit during the practice which isn’t optimal since I don’t get a break (note: this is after I’ve been at school for 9 or so hours) but it is what it is. As always, I do the running joke of “man I hate this, what am I doing with my life”.
At this point a friend of mine (and a great drummer!) says “Yeah, music [studies] are where you realize that being a musician is a job just like everything else, and not all the sunshine and rainbows that it looks like from the outside” which kind of hit me a bit.
I’m an artist. By that I mean I’m a person who likes to express myself through creating art, be it visual arts, performing arts, or literary arts. Every single day when I get out of bed, I do so because I want to create something for the world. I want to take a moment, take a sensation, take a feeling, and take an experience and try to explain it with something that to me feels otherwordly.
I’m not a religious person nor am I very spiritual, but there is just something about the arts which I simply cannot explain using science. Yes, I can analyze, break down and replicate just about anything with enough time, and I do know that we can create theory around it to explain it – but there’s still that 1% of it which is just pure magic. I don’t believe it is something given to us by heaven or anything. I simply just believe that it is something special. It’s the one thing that makes us human, and the one thing that gives our lives meaning.
When we fail to express something using empiricism and facts, we can express it through art. Art is what tells us what our feelings are and what they mean. It’s what defines us as individuals, and as a society.
I’m privileged to be able to spend my time practicing art, because there sure as hell are a lot of people who can not spend their time like that. Many live in fear of dying, many live in war zones. Many do not have the money, and others don’t have the artistic language required to do so.
But at times it’s pretty hard.
We’re constantly told that we must pursue greatness and popularity, even though those two are completely different. We’re always measured and compared with eachother, given reviews, and fighting for the approval of other people. And we do so by letting out very personal and intimate parts of our life. There are very few artists out there who do not hold their expression close to their heart, and many of us view it as a very big and important part of ourselves and who we are.
It feels like there’s always someone out there looking for just the tiniest mistake we make, and who will use it to try and make us seem really bad, be it for their own ego-boost or in order to increase their own “status” as an artist – both as someone who practices the same art as we do, or someone who wants to increase their status as a critic.
We’re also often struggling to let those small mistakes go for our own part, as we can feel inside of us what it is that we truly want to create. Another running joke within music is “Thanks, but you should’ve heard what I was trying to play”, because, well, you really should have! I hear lots of sounds within my head when I’m writing, and experience so many emotions and impulses I want to manifest through my instrument – but I always feel like I barely wasn’t able to.
Many of us struggle to accept the concept of good enough, because what is good enough other than the best of which we can make? We know we can make it – why else would we have heard it in our heads? As artists we can often get hyperfixated over teeny tiny details, because deep down we know how much of a difference they can make in our expression.
I don’t really know what I’m trying to arrive at with this blog post. I truly do love music, and I’m pursuing it because I’m passionate about it. It’s what I want to do with my life, even though I know how hard it is and how much I have to struggle to get through some of it. After all, what in life is worth it if it’s just a given without some hard work?
I dream of becoming a working musician and an artist, but it’s scary. There’s so much at risk, and it would be a million times easier and safer to just become a teacher or to study cybersecurity. But I just gotta become a musician. I’m gonna make it somehow.
But man, is it hard some times.