My dear readers,
I have been recently reflecting on the purpose of music in our society. Perhaps not coincidentally, I also noticed an interesting story on the CBS evening news tonight. The story is about a man from Tacoma, WA named Don Brittain. The 78-year-old Mr. Brittain has been playing the 24-note “Taps” on his trumpet every evening at sunset for the past two years over Puget Sound.
This story had a profound effect on me. You see, Don Brittain is a polio survivor who desperately wanted to serve our country but was unable to do so. His nightly rendition of “Taps”, which he ever continues to perfect through practice, is his way of serving our country and honoring our military. This is a small yet profound gesture that has captivated residents in his neighborhood. In fact, his neighbors even come out to listen now, as part of an evening ritual.
To me, Mr. Brittain’s story is truly inspiring. It is a testament to the power of sound and its effect on our collective consciousness. Mr. Brittain does not play his trumpet because he is looking for fame. In fact, he is not even a professional trumpet player. His heartfelt rendition of “Taps” is the result of an inner conviction to give back to the men and women who serve and who served in uniform. It is the best way that he knows how.
Because Mr. Brittain followed his heart, others with a similar inclination followed him. To me, there is no greater joy than the freedom to express thanks, whether to our friends, family, strangers, or our Creator.
You can find the full CBS report HERE
Daniel Broniatowski, D.M.A.
Music to Warm the Heart
Music as a Reflection of Life
Recently, I was preoccupied with the quintessential existential question that plagues musicians in my field. That question is “What is the relevance of Classical Music in the modern world?”
I spent a good deal of time thinking about this and trying to figure out how to write about our purpose in society. Then it occurred to me. How much more could Bach, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven have pondered the same question in an era when Classical Music was barely developed! Did they really care what the audience thought? Probably, to some extent, but it certainly didn’t stop them from composing the way they wished throughout their entire lives.
Suddenly, the atonal composer Arnold Schoenberg comes to mind. If you really want to explore the music of someone who was indifferent to being appreciated by society at large, listen to his atonal works, such as Pierrot Lunaire!
We artists and musicians are on a life-long journey. We follow the courage of our convictions without necessarily knowing where we are going. We desperately want security but in order to be creative, we must realize that security is an illusion. There is no other way, if we are to follow our inner voice. Otherwise, we follow the voices of others.
Now, let me clarify something: When I say "Security is an illusion", I do not mean that we should live in poverty.
Keep reading to see what I mean.
The inner voice I referred to, my friends, is exactly what I am going to spend the rest of my article writing about.
You see, my personal belief is that it is this inner voice that can and will guide musician and non-musician alike in life. It is very scary to admit that our lives are not completely in our control.
In fact, I will go even a step further and say that the inner voice that I speak of is not even ours. We do not control what the voice says and we do not decide what it is going to tell us so that we can “make it” or “make it big”. Now, in order not to sound schizophrenic, let’s replace “inner voice” with “intuition”. Intuition is the process of realization that tells us “Ah hah, now I understand”. If you reread the above paragraph with this replaced word, you might come to a better understanding of what I just said.
Let’s bring my high floating ideas down to earth and apply this to everyday life. Take the example of a teenager or college student who is trying to decide what to do with the rest of his or her life. He or she might have many options. Yet, at the end of the day, the soul will incline toward a particular career or job. Think the young man or woman must be highly educated to even make these decisions?
I beg to differ. We all have a purpose dictated by the fact that we are the sum total of our experiences which shape us at a very young age. After all, didn’t cavemen make music?
Let me now share my experience. I know that I love making music. I love the experience of playing music and perfecting my talent, which only exists because of a gift from my Creator. Because my soul is naturally inclined toward sharing my gift with others, I get pleasure from presenting concerts and performances in which my talent comes through. Yet, I do not get a selfish pleasure in showing off. Rather, I know that the gift I was given came from a Higher Power and because of this, I recognize that whenever I pick up the violin, it is my way of saying “Thank You” to my Creator. I also know that when I doubt my ability to succeed with my talent, I am consequently doubting G-d’s plan for me because I know deep in my bones that this is my path.
So to me, practicing and performing is a form of prayer. It is all about giving. People in my audience who are touched by my playing are not really touched because of me. Rather, they are touched by the music that is played through me, as a natural extension of my soul. That is why when I get compliments for a job-well done, I do not let it go to my approval-seeking ego.
As I continue the journey, I know that my intuition will keep me on the right path. To other musicians and non-musicians who question their relevance in an increasingly difficult economy, I say “Have faith and listen to that inner voice”. It will come to you if you cultivate the art of sitting quietly and learn to be calm under fire from whatever may come your way. Some call this skill meditation. Others call it reflection, while still others call it prayer. Meanwhile, let us all try our best to help each other and support our fellow man and woman in these tough times.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
More entries: July 2012
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