Hello. My name is Gilles, and I am (amongst other things), an amateur musician. As a leisure activity, I play the guitar, with the goal of mastering an exciting repertoire of music ranging from baroque music to gypsy swing, to tangos, boleros, waltzes, sometimes even movie music. Whatever I find interesting, stirring, compelling, exotic – as a soundtrack to my life. Prefer the older stuff to the new (I see myself as a cultural “retriever”, and self-styled “encyclopedist”).
I consider myself an amateur musicians for many reasons. I play for pleasure. I play to explore. I play because I need to, both as a form of “personal therapy”, and as a way to constantly rediscover the riches of the human imagination. And believe it or not, I actually enjoy the arduous, finicky discipline of learning an instrument.
Currently I don’t play for money, I have a professional life outside of music. This state of affairs has its advantages and disadvantages. Being a musician is a big part of who I am, and we all know that people making a living at what they love doing generally live a more fulfilling life. But by removing the pressure of economic necessity – which constrains as much as it focuses the artistic development of professional musicians – I also feel the amateur musician can stand at a vantage point in the development of new concepts for music, by taking a wider view of things.
That said, I’ve also been a professional musician. For a decade I played in various groups and combos, including the not-world-famous Molestics, which I co-founded (for more info, you may want to read the lead singer’s caustic chronicle of the band). Tragically, a severe tendinitis injury put an end to my ambitions. Worse: for many years, I was unable to physically play any instrument.
Back on the music wagon after a long hiatus, I’m now in a position to appreciate the places I’ve been. Indeed, the ability to pursue a professional career in music has been vitally important to my personal and professional development, in allowing me to know concretely what skills and attitudes were important to pursue music seriously. Most importantly, as a professional, I was constantly in contact with a wide variety of music audiences, and was thereby able to discover why different people sought out certain types of musical experiences. Even better, making music publicly was perhaps the first opportunity in my adult life – beyond notions of artistic and economic “success” and “failure” – to fully be myself, and make a living at it.
But the constant pressures involved in “making it” as a pro musician also impacted negatively my overall concept of musical knowledge and ambition. Musical research and development under constant tight deadlines, if sustained over a long period of time, tend to narrow one’s overall vision and creative vocabulary. The career path of professional musicians I found also a little predictable, a constant reshuffling of performance, recording and (for some) teaching opportunities, in whatever permutation. Above all, I found that the fine marketing heads in the “music industry” seemed to operate under the strange assumption that audiences “know what they want”, and that music needed to be marketed to people’s “tastes”. Certainly, markets have wants and needs, but beyond the lifestyle categories, where does the sharing of a genuine creative vision come into play?
As a remedy to these impoverishments, I decided to launch this project.
Simply put, my focus with amateurmusicians.net will be on my artistic ideals, combined with the real painstaking and (ultimately rewarding) process of learning a musical instrument and repertoire. As an artist I aspire to an ideal of encyclopedic knowledge. This can only be attained through the mastery of a repertoire rich in stylistic variety, and through opportunities to share this knowledge with other musicians and music-lovers. As an amateur musician, I want to learn to better mobilise a precious resource – time – to this end, this ideal.
Further, writing posts on this blog will help me focus my purpose, so that I may tie it in with ongoing developments in the current culture shift, at a moment where we are witnessing millions of “small pieces loosely joined” (to use David Weinberger’s book title) fighting it out with the Music Industry Borg and its minions.
Music has always been with me, and seems to run in my family. Thanks to attentive and encouraging parents, I started playing music at a relatively young age. My first instrument was the violin, which I played for three years. Then came the electric guitar, and the trumpet for my teen years. In my twenties, I took to the acoustic double-bass, and the acoustic guitar, both nylon and steel-string (my current instrument). Beyond my own story, I also have a brother who is a professional musician, and members of my extended family who pursue independent careers in music.
As I embark on this new adventure, music has now become my muse to all my key life questions. I’ve thus come to the conclusion that if music didn’t exist, I’d have to invent it. Since it does exist – and in a bewildering variety of forms – I’ll be quite happy if I can give a hand in helping reinvent some of the many purposes it can serve, whenever we set out to live a life we wish to call our own.
(Guitar lesson with my goddaughter, Arianne)