John March -

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This article was written and published in Musico Pro magazine:

Why do we Make Music ?

OK so that seems like a simple question, but is it really? I mean we are living in a global village now, where the cultural imperatives that drive us are becoming more and more confusing. Look around and there are all of these false mythologies driving us in all aspects of our lives. A pan-cultural prevalent myth is that Music can create a lifestyle that is free of the usual constraints and cares that affect everyone else. 

MTV tells us that a hit song with heavy rotation can generate Big Bucks and change your life as a human and an artist. Artists speak of being motivated to acts of philanthropy and humane works and pat themselves on the back with Grammyís and other similar awards, even though the essence of awards shows is to hype product and sell more stuff. 

So we return to the original question, why do we make music? 

Most career musicians and professionals know that unless you are extremely lucky, the life of a musician, composer, player, sound designer, mixer, engineer, is a constant hustle, and that most situations seriously lack in humane treatment, integrity, or nurturing of the creative spirit. Most musicians are not artists with hit songs and heavy rotation. And the truth is, that to a large degree, the entire business of music is actually set up more for musicians and bands to fail, than to actually develop into something powerful. If that were not the case, than an entire cottage industry that is geared solely to developing, and recording and dumping new talent and then moving on, would collapse and fail. Everything has to exist in a category that allows the product to be marketed. Is it Pop or Rock, or Jazz or country, where will it sit in the bins, can I sell it to college students as alternative, or angry young women, can I video this song and create a singing Diva so I can underscore the next romantic comedy from Castle Rock entertainment, or can I sell this to kids in the ghetto who are dreaming of being the next big rapper so they can get out of the place they are in? These are all real questions that A&R people have to ask before they can invest in developing an artist or group.

So again I return to my original question:
In my opinion; We, (that is musicians and artists who devote their lives and not just their youth to the pursuit of the elusive muse). play music because we have to, there is really no choice. A traditional Hindu saying is "We play music to align the spirit", anyone who says otherwise is selling something.

Music is not a commodity or a category, it is a gift. A gift from the musician to the listener and I believe that most serious musicians consider the muse a rare and precious gift received. I want to be clear that I think serious musicians can and do come from every possible genre. I think Oscar Peterson and Michael Brecker have as much in common as Albert Collins and Stevie Ray Vaughn and Keith Jarret and Igor Ostraikh and Mozart and Egberto Gismonti, Ravi shankar or Trilock Gurtu, or some amazing musician sitting in the middle of the Australian outback or on a remote island in Fiji. The common element, or theme that exists amongst all of these musicians is that all of these people express themselves in a way that moves us. Their humanity comes through and evokes something larger than the smaller worlds we tend to inhabit. 

I have to be honest and say that I cannot relate to most Pop music as anything other than clothing that one wears for a brief moment and then discards as the fashion or season changes. Few Pop artists actually explore developmental process and engage my mind and heart. But then agaim, that is a music marketing personís dream. 

Our entire human history is suffused with the transformative power of music. It is only recently, the last 25 years or so, that our culture has committed the sins of arrogance and pride, and traded in the humanity of music for the commodity and competition of the free market. The end result is an oversaturated market and a dehumanizing process that probably weeds out a lot of the best people as they probably do not fit into some easily accessible category.

Music is a universal language that speaks to us all. It is the Grinding techno beat impelling us to dance, the hard driving melodies and rhythms of Oscar Peterson, the Ragas of India, the rhythms of Africa, the grandeur of Mozart. the voices of Bulgarian women lifted in song, and even the computer generated noises and screaming sonic assaults of alternative grundge. All these things are music. It is the band you stumble on in a bar in the middle of nowhere that are playing so hard and make your feet move and your heart pound. All these things are why we make music. The false mythologies, are merely lies that support the mechanism, the machine, that financially supports the people who live off of other peopleís abilities and experience, and those mythologies have nothing to do with the reasons we play or make music... 

We are all capable of moving beyond that. It is the choosing to do so that will actually make a difference.