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This article was written and published in Musico Pro magazine:

Fate is a Four-Letter Word

Fate, Karma, destiny, luck, serendipity, chance, timing, all of these words are used often in discussing the artistic and commercial successes of musicians/artists. I believe that every musician that has seriously considered a career in music, who has spent innumerable hours practicing their instrument alone in a room, who has devoted a great portion of their lives to pursuing the muse, has at one point or another, considered the fickle nature of karma, of the almost quantum unpredictable nature of "success". Ambition, goals, livelihood, career, all of these words also come into play. Somehow the economic forces that drive our culture have also infiltrated our sensibilities with regards to those things which are fundamental to the artistic process.

Oversaturation, marketing, market share, categories, labeling, A&R, all of these words are artificial constructs that have arisen out of a purely economically driven modality that I believe goes out of its way to ignore real creativity, and does everything it can to foster a competitive environment based on a free market system where supply and demand are king, and humanity and craft are immaterial. I must know 10 awesome musicians, whose playing is only rivaled by their excellent humanity, and the truth is that in all likelihood none of you reading this will ever hear their music or know who they are. And I am sure that every person reading this knows someone exactly like I have just described.
Does it matter?

I say yes and no.

On a grand cosmological scale, absolutely not. It is all, every molecule, every event, every thought and deed, a matter of just so much impermanence and so much sand through the glass. On a human level, however. it very much matters. It matters to the people who are living their lives pursuing their muse. It matters on the soul level of existence because the most profound truths are often found in the egoless creation of art for the sake of art. These truths are what transform the world. There are so many historical examples of powerful art not only mirroring social change, but also actually inspiring it. Art, Music, vision and imagination can transform the social fabric, can lift the human spirit and re-awaken the soul of imagination that is so obviously lacking in the cultural paradigm. In fact the greatest tragedy that western culture is perpetrating, is the deadening of the cultural and for that matter, the individual, imagination. Within the realm of imagination lies the souls true calling. Can we honestly say that the commercial artistic culture is capable of social change? When artists are sponsored by large corporate economic agendas. In sync and Britney Spears selling their product through McDonalds. Is that really music, or just another type of Big Mac with Fries?

Sting, my favorite pop artist, is a prime example of this confused and paradoxical merger between artistry and the corporate agenda. Sting is a truly great poet/lyricist, an incredible musical craftsman, an original melodicist and in general, a great example of the union between sophisticated artistry and economics. He is able to both create music and stories that realistically tap into the cultural subconscious, the roots of our collective soul, (that is what is what makes him so universally appealing.), while at the same time, he has clearly navigated the corporate seas and captained his own ship towards fame and fortune on his own terms. Something I would imagine lies within the heart of all artists pursuing a commercial agenda. At the same time he recently decided to participate in a commercial advertising Jaguars, (the automobile, not the endangered Jungle cat species.). I have to be honest and say that I found this pretty offensive. I ask the question why would he need to do this? Was it some attempt to market his new CD to the Jaguar driving share of the market that he felt he was missing? I know he doesn't need any more money or a new free car, so why would he need to be in a Jaguar commercial? Are the economic forces of advertising and sales so powerful that even an artist at the apex of the paradigm must succumb to prurient economic forces?

Here is a simple question: Why is rap music the #1 marketable music in the world? The answer is simple. It is a totally ambiguous music form that realistically requires minimum skill and craft and allows for a high market presence and quick artistic turnover. Thereby constantly satisfying the ever-changing and volatile youth market and the ultimate laws of supply and demand. It is also a key ingredient in mollifying the underclass working poor. It is an unsubstantiated false mythology that somehow the chance exists that a good rapper, and or DJ, or Producer, can strike it rich and leave the ghetto paradigm. This false mythology is so occluded by falsehoods that the average kids on the street in Compton or Harlem, or wherever, has no idea of the political forces and the economic forces that are actually marshaled against that possibility happening. An individual has a better chance of being struck by lightning during sex, or winning the lottery, than achieving commercial success in almost any field of the music/entertainment paradigm. This does not mean that it is not possible, nor is it a fixed given that talent will not win out in the end, but the path is extremely difficult and the reality is that the exception more often proves the rule. I am also not saying, that there are individuals out there, whose poetic and rhythmic sensibilities are not transformative or powerful in their ability to effect change. I am not saying that rappers with vision and poetry in their souls do not exist. I am saying, that it is highly unlikely that those individuals, and what they have to say, will surface. The corporate economic agenda won't allow that to happen because profundity incites change and revolution. A lot of marketing energy goes toward paying homage to the Rock'n Roll rebel, but how rebellious can you really be when the very economic forces that are supporting your artistic endeavors, are realistically the same economic and social forces that are preventing rebellious and dramatic social change? In fact it is in the interests of the corporate community to maintain the status quo, both social and artistic, because the status quo at this point in time is entirely a consumer mentality, based on soul gratification through the acquisition of material wealth, and diversion through insubstantial entertainment.

What happened to the willingness to seek out musicians of depth and soul? Why is someone like Alan Holdsworth largely ignored and the Spice girls lauded as the second coming, (no puns intended there.) I am curious as to whether most people even understand the degree to which marketing forces are allied against them and dictate their listening and musical tastes. If I say to most people that I think that Stevie Ray Live and Jimi Hendrix's Axis Bold As Love is great to me, and in the same breath I say that I am also amazed by The Mendelsohn E minor Violin concerto and The Preludes and fugues of Shostokovich, most people tune out. My love of music is derived more from the depth of humanity that is communicated, and the passion, commitment and intellect that is conveyed, by a well played or well written piece, than any piece of Pop music I can think of. I am amazed by Oscar Peterson's improvisations and endless imagination, his will to swing and be conscious and present with every note, Eric Johnson's articulated sonic presence, Trilock Gurtu's Rhythmic virtuosity, etc, etc, etc... I am bored by the adolescent and prurient nature of music as flavor of the month, lyrics by kids with no real sense of having lived in the world, and a political engine that is entirely self serving, selling the world its vision of music, motivated solely by greed and ambition.

We create our own worlds. We choose the path that life takes us on. In Bhuddist theology one of the fundamental precepts is that the Path itself is the goal. That is a rather large idea. That the journey itself, all the ups and downs, the Joy and hardship, are actually the entire goal, and that all of the events along the way are rather circumstantial. A musician that enters the path of music as livelihood must at the very beginning, surrender to fate. That is a hard concept to swallow, but in truth it is that surrender that allows possibility to arise. Music is about communication. It is also unfortunately about business. The two are not necessarily exclusive, but in truth the spirit of music and what it teaches, evokes and communicates, has nothing to do with the business of marketing music to the global music market. We all make our own fate. Carl Jung says that if we do not turn and face unconscious world, those unresolved dilemmas become our fate. I believe that we need to create a world where the things that mean the most and do the most to heal the soul of the world are what is considered important. All the rest is simply short-term thinking that serves no one and simple makes the world a smaller place to live in. It is the role of the artist to communicate the soul of the world and to expand others vision of what is, and is not possible. The more that we as individuals aspire to reaching out and meeting people on that humane level, the better the world can be. Keep on playing, make music that comes from your soul, ignore the rest.