All You Need is Love

By Alex Shapiro, Composer
Brian asks, "Can we have greater success by embracing the creatives formerly known as amateurs?"

I believe so, because by embracing them, we automatically foster what I referred to in my initial post on this blog as "affinity." The more people who have their own hand in some form of art-making, the more people who will appreciate the making of art on all levels. And, quite possibly, be willing to spend money on art. This is also why arts education for kids is vital for creating future audiences (as well as future artists). Building affinity. But we all know that tune.    

I've always giggled at professionals who view "amateurs" who blindly plunk around in Garage Band or Photoshop as a threat to their livelihood. The essence of being an artist is that presumably, you're unique in what you have to communicate. People respond not to the number of academic degrees you possess, but to your personal take on the world as it relates to your heart and every other part of you. When non-professionals have access to tools that allow them greater self expression, this is a wonderful thing for them, and also for those of us who earn our living from the results of our own plunking.

Remember, boys and girls: "amateur" comes from the word "amare," "to love": amo, amas, amat, for those of us geeks who enjoyed years of Latin classes. Amat-eurs love what they are doing. And presumably, what we are doing, when we're doing what they love. 
July 20, 2010 2:17 PM | | Comments (2) |


As you already know from my post, I do not share your views on this point, Stefan, but I'm glad that you've taken the time to comment since you articulate an opposing opinion well.

Since you're a composer as well, I would only add that regardless of what any other composer in the world is doing and how poorly you think they may be doing it, that you should continue with your own best work. You are not in competition with anyone else, nor are they in competition with you. There are audiences out there for everyone, and those audiences will find the artists who speak to them. Happily, there are a seemingly endless number of languages to which listeners are drawn.

I am frequently amazed at audiences' contentedness with musical products that you might say fail (often spectacularly) to meet "professional" standards. People choose to support their amateur friends' bands over more competent strangers 10 out of 10 times. So while I tend to be in favor of the democratization of art making, I have frequently wondered if there isn't a dark side to it, namely that by painting art as something anyone can do, we actually undermine people's ability to appreciate the great artists in their midst, and instead reduce everything to a (social) popularity contest.

Artists of all stripes simply crave validation, or at least recognition, of what they've created, and so absent the self-policing mechanisms that take hold in the strongest art communities, even some rank amateurs end up promoting themselves as something more. We want to assume that we're not competing directly with those who "blindly plunk around" because the products we offer are so different, but the difference is not obvious to enough people for that to be the case. So giggle if you want, but I feel threatened by just about anyone holding an instrument if they have more friends than I do.

I'm not sure this is a new problem, though. This passage from one of the essays in Schoenberg's "Style and Idea" has always intrigued me, not least for having been written over 60 years ago:

The abolition of amateurism stems from the ambition of amateurs who wanted to compete with professionals. The result was extremely destructive to the art of music. The necessities of competition now forced rivals to use improper means in order to make a success, and what is even worse is that those who as amateurs had formerly been impartial and unselfish, and ready to support needy or unfortunate artists, promoters of the arts, were now in the market themselves. Instead of buying music, instead of attending concerts, instead of enjoying music, they themselves demanded support.

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