„Uncertainty was yesterday, today is chaos”...Does the increasing complexity in life have an influence on the way the composers of today write music? When I am playing the music of contemporary composers, I ask myself – does this music express the feeling of modernity? When yes, what is it? Can it be captured in words?

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„Uncertainty was yesterday, today is chaos”. This was the title of an article that I read last week in the Harvard Business Review. The author speculated that today we had such a great variety of influence factors for making decisions. These factors have unpredictable correlations that make it almost impossible to come to a clear conclusion. Our lives are influenced by giant forces such as mobility, globalisation, non-conformism, cultural and social diversity. No wonder we feel that the complexity is increasing.

Does the increasing complexity in life have an influence on the way the composers of today write music? When I am playing the music of contemporary composers, I ask myself – does this music express the feeling of modernity? When yes, what is it? Can it be captured in words? The search for the feeling of modernity is not new. Let me share with you the thoughts of Charles Baudelaire who was a great poet, an art philosopher and a deep thinker. He believes that any artist is a “spiritual citizen of the universe“ by his or her very nature as a super sensory sensitive person who is very inquisitive and who has an immense yearning for knowledge and understanding. Baudelaire had an interesting thought that the way of artist’s reacting to the world would eventually lead to some cultural progression – in other words, an artist is forever in search of modernity.

There is one more thought by Charles Baudelaire that fascinated me. He says that the hardest part of being “contemporary” artist is to love the present times, embrace them, and not search in the past. He wanted the artists to live in present and enjoy it. To discover the beauty of today and listen to the present. To hear “today” and understand it! That is how artistic motto of Moving Classics TV “Discover the beauty of contemporary piano” and “Listen to our life” was born.
What is contemporary piano? Just by listening quickly to our “Fantasy notes” playlists, your impression will be a mixture of every conceivable genre: from the distant Bach polyphony and Lisztian harmonies to the jazz rhythms, ethno sounds, ambient, minimalism, lounge, pop, to name just a few. It is hard for purists to find a certain sustainable line. But the compositions are just like our life: multi-stylistic, extreme diverse, non-conform, flexible, still fresh, and childishly pure. There is a reason for it too: composers are able to draw their inspiration from a practically limitless array of sources, from Palestrina singing to Lady Gaga viral songs. The absence of limitations nourish the composer’s soul and bring more creative ideas. It is more a question of making a well-thought choice and being loyal to one own beliefs.

The contemporary composers have a much more complex society to deal with. They are trying to meet the taste of a society that is influenced by breaking news and the thoughts of flexibility, comfort and entertainment. Our society is also highly performance-oriented. Internet made music available to everybody at no cost and if people are in search of inspiration or just want to relax or get entertained, they will be listening to music. To be the source of inspiration for the society, contemporary composers compete with the genius of the past. It is often the case that if our society wants to get more “culture”, they go to the concert featuring the 19th century music. Just look at the program of any concert hall in the world. Or just type in Beethoven & Chopin in Google line or YouTube and listen online. It still works. The genius of the past still inspire us.

In a world that seems to be more and more unpredictable and sometimes chaotic, there is a wish to reduce the complexity of life. No wonder new age, ambient or just relaxation music grew in popularity or just any background-oriented music to support our multi-tasking activities. I think an important role of the contemporary music today is to reach new upcoming milieus in the society. A new type of listener needs a new kind of music. A new listener does not want to invest much time in trying to accommodate his or her ear to the music. They are inpatient, they want to be either immediately carried away or they just leave, they want music that allow them to lean back and let the mind wander. Having said that, I would like to conclude with the words of Charles Baudelaire: “Modernity is the transient, the fleeting, the contingent; it is one-half of art, the other being the eternal and the immovable.”

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Blog about what business leaders and musicians have in common, design thinking methodology, creativity development and sources of inspiration, my creativity break tool

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Business leaders and musicians: what do they have in common? Isn’t it a strange question? At first you could say that these two worlds are so different that one excludes the other. The words “office” and “business” bring the associations in mind like hierarchy, processes, workflow, efficiency, cost savings… Meaning no trills, no entertainment, no distractions. The world of musicians can be described by the artistic freedom, self-realization, creativity, inspiration-driven curiosity, emotions… This is a stereotype thinking but what if we change the worlds and bring “artistry” to the office space? Successful musician knows how to balance the creative and the business side. The personality traits of musicians like hard discipline, patience, perseverance can be of use in any job. And musicians are creative all day long!
That is exactly what the Stanford University scientists did. They developed a methodology “Design thinking” after having observed and analyzed the creative process of artists and musicians with the goal of establishing a new culture for innovations, better products and optimal solutions with customer satisfaction in a business world. I would like to refer you to their website for more insight on it under http://dschool.stanford.edu/use-our-methods/ Sounds cool – but how can it work in practice?
For the business leader things are getting more complex, the analytical and rational way of thinking does not give answers that guarantee success, the trends are changing so fast that we are under pressure. Customers are expecting new creative solutions. And some are sitting at their desk and expect some sort of inspiration to reach them. Being creative or being able to produce something new and original is also a skill that can be trained. It is a dynamic process that should have a sense of purpose. The motivation behind helps to bring you to a creative path with several stations or sources of inspiration, figuratively speaking.
I would like to share with you some thoughts and learnings of musicians that could be useful in the daily life too and could push your creativity.
The visualization is a strong tool to start you going. The very thought of putting you in a role of, let us say, a musician, opens mentally a new perspective and can give you this famous “different angle” of perspective. I would say the ears are the most precious thing for musicians and the ability to hear the nuances in speech or just listening for a longer period with full attention could bring advantages. The concentration on one matter is not easy, but imagine that it is something beautiful that desires your attention – a beautiful melody or a famous tune! The recent Harvard Business Review devoted the whole editorial to the mindfulness at work and emotional cultures in the action. The feeling for a right tempo can be translated in a business language into a feeling for doing things right – in other words, your intuition. I guess musicians are at the best when they are most intuitive in their art. The work in orchestra with its hierarchy and well-defined roles: that of a conductor- leader, first violin, individual instruments with their character, is a fascinating start of leadership, group dynamics and teamwork. Just add the improvisation to it and you get a complete picture for any business leaders with learnings about the readiness to venture, try things out and just do things! Speaking about trying it out, the prototyping and iterations are the corner elements of the design thinking methodology.
The musicians are very inventive when it comes to developing their methods to cope with stress on the stage and fear of failure. I remember one story of my piano coach. Before he starts playing, he would whisper his name to himself. Saying our own name reminds us of the most important source of inspiration for our creativity, namely ourselves. I tried it out too and could see that it brings back the confidence and takes away the fear.
Personally I believe in positive attitude and optimism as the big boosters of creativity. Makes me think of joyful music that lifts the spirits and puts me in a right mood. Positive emotions influence employee satisfaction, performance, quality and customer service – just name it! Positive mood is not possible without the “isles of rest”. Some companies use deliberately the “Pause for Fun”, others schedule some time for meditation, or provide mindfulness apps on people’s work devices to remind them to simply breathe, relax or laugh.
The idea to use music for relaxation pauses comes naturally. The team of Moving Classics TV was working a tool “MY CREATIVITY BREAK”. 3 minutes of relaxed listening and slow watching videos devoted to one topic. You can see the daily “my creativity files” in our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/movingclassicstv or in LinkedIn our Moving Classics TV page https://www.linkedin.com/company/movingclassics-tv I would like to invite you to test it yourself.

What is your experience before and after watching “my creativity break”? How important is creativity in your job? Do you work on improving your creative skills? What do you do for it? Do you make use of music for your personal development? Do you think music and musicians could share some learnings with other professions? If yes, what exactly? Thank you for reading and am looking forward to many interesting discussions.

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Thoughts about the dilemma of all musicians - to play or not to play...

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Let us face it, all musicians know this dilemma. You can read the heated debates in the Internet, listen to the emotional talks between musicians, get angry at the very thought and still, all musicians did it at the beginning of their career.

There are myriad of reasons for the asking and equally as many reasons for the accepting. The possible reasons for playing could be self-promotion, the wish to “test” your repertoire, get stage experience, meet new contacts and followers, try out new locations, play with your favorite colleagues and friends. Just love of music, promise to get a well-paid gig next time…Everybody has his or her reasons but nobody likes to admit the fact they accepted the free gig. The musicians decide on the case-to-case basis – if they see benefits from investing their time, dedication and talent into the free job.

The negative contra arguments would be the abuse of musicians’ love of music and their willingness to play or letting others earn money through their talent. Many musicians believe in the clear distinction between the so-called “Pragmatic Amateurs” and the so-called “Professionals with no freebie mindset”. Both would have the same artistic level if played in the same concert but “pragmatic amateurs” would have their income from non-concert activities. There is one more reason that is even more worrying. It is an economic phenomenon – dumping. When musicians accept the free or low-paid gigs, they bring the prices down for everybody who is out there on the market.

There is one more “killing” argument – the reputation. Playing for free officially can hurt the status as it is de-mystifying the image of a professional musician. Surely, playing charity concert for a good cause is a very different matter.

Music business is tough for any newcomers, be it the musicians who just graduated from the Universities or the rising musicians who are entering into new markets. The Piano News Magazine published the study about the graduates of piano faculties saying that there is no such job title as “Concert Pianist” anymore, as nearly all graduates need to develop extra-musical skills to survive and get their income from several sources. Today a successful musician needs more than just a musical talent. He or she needs some entrepreneurial and managerial skills for the self-marketing and the self-organization.

It is a long way of getting enough stage experience. The maturity needs time and concert opportunity to test for real what musicians have been learning. Nobody can learn the repertoire in the warm and cozy practice room, then go on stage in the Carnegie Hall, and play the concert of their lifetime. Great maestros like Vladimir Horowitz and Svjatoslav Richter have been touring Russian villages at the beginning of their career, playing nights through to get the music into their fingers for everybody who was willing to hear…

So, to play or not to play? What would you decide? Thank you for sharing your opinion.

Country:Germany

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Essay about musicians and emotions, the role of music in increasing empathy, the reputation of musicians being highly sensitive, thoughts on creative mind, chills, empathy exercises

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Isn’t it a dream of every one of us to have a partner who would pick up the most subtle nuance in a conversation and would understand what we are intending to say but do not want to put into words? I guess you doubt if there is such a person in this world. However, the scientists are optimistic and suggest that you should find a musician! The recent research shows that an early musical training would teach a person to understand every emotional cue in speech. It teaches to hear very precisely every changes of tone and recognize the emotions in sound – very valuable quality in our everyday life!
The daily processing of acoustic tones and especially the efficiency of the processing helps to show incredible results: Richard Ashley, associate professor of music cognition at Northwestern, found that musicians might be able to sense emotions in sound after hearing them for only 50 milliseconds–just 1/20th of a second! Oliver Grewe, a biologist and musicologist, points out that the gift of quickly identifying emotion has implications in all arenas of interpersonal communication. Beside the better language proficiency, a musician would be able to hear your voice in a noisy crowd and might even follow what you are saying… This quality is obvious even for a non-musician if they observe the orchestra where individual voices of instruments intertwine into a beautiful carpet of a whole symphonic work!
But you do not need to be a professional musician to excel in an empathy – an ability to recognize, interpret and respond appropriately to the emotions of others. The scientists from the Cambridge University David M. Greenberg, Peter J. Rentfrow and Simon Baron-Cohen say that listening to music can increase empathy. They raise a whole range of interesting questions like what kind of music can increase empathy, can music decrease empathy, based on musical preferences and thinking styles.
I particularly like a simple exercise that helps to train the empathy that I know from my early musical training: ask yourself what the music makes you feel during listening to a particular piece and try to find one word to describe your feelings. This exercise is not trivial, I tried it with several musicians and even they found it tricky with some pieces but if you do repeatedly, it brings fruits!
A neuroscientist Jens Wöllner (2012) showed that people with higher levels of empathy are able to perceive and identify a musician’s intentions with greater accuracy than those with lower levels. So it is a positive circle: the more empathic you are, the more receptive you are to the performance of a musician who is also empathic and communicates the emotions. It leads to greater enjoyment of musical performance and increases the chance of experiencing chills – strong emotional moments. I like the quotation of Oliver Groewe: “Music is a recreative activity. Even if it is relaxing to listen to, the listener has to recreate its meaning, the feelings it expresses. It is the listener who gives life to the emotions in music.” Another psychological trick – projection – does the rest of the game. A singer Joni Mitchell said in an interview: “The trick is if you listen to that music and you see me, you’re not getting anything out of it. If you listen to that music and you see yourself, it will probably make you cry and you’ll learn something about yourself and now you’re getting something out of it.”
But how much empathy is healthy? Professional musicians have a reputation of being overtly emotional and highly sensitive – not a necessarily positive quality to put up with in a daily life. Another statistics show high rates of depression among musicians due to too many stimuli and failed filtration. It is very informative to go through internet blogs where there are heated debates if it is true. (I would refer you to Google – just type in “are musicians highly sensitive/emotional?) Musicians work with nuances that would not be possible without high sensitivity. It is a philosophical question if musicians are born with fragile mind to permit the perception of various stimuli or if they develop it during their lifetime. The richness of sensory details that life provides belong to the “virtues” of high sensitivity. I am thinking of more intensity in everything around us: more subtle shades in clothing, more refined taste while eating, the fragrances and smells in nature and surely the sounds in our daily environment. The perception depends not only on higher sensitivity but also on ability to concentrate. Again something, musicians learn in their music training.
Pearl Buck, an American Pulitzer prize novelist, finds the right words for a creative mind of a musician.
“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive. To them…a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death.”
What are your thoughts? Do you agree with the stereotype of an emotional musician? Do you think music can teach us to learn about our emotions and recognize them in others? Do you know some interesting exercises for it? Thank you for reading.

 

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