Music and The Elevation of Purpose: A Treatise on Creative Aspiration
By: Luke MacLean
What does music give us?
What are we meant to accomplish through it?
On the meaning and definition of Music:
For the purposes of this writing it is important that one should understand clearly the perspective from which these questions are being approached. To speak of music is to speak of the notion of art, and thus, they may seem interchangeable. To say that a man is a musician is to say that he is an artist, but the opposite is not necessarily true. So, the actual focus is not music but its artistic essence, though, it is important to use a more specific medium when writing about such a topic lest the author and reader be led away from a tangible understanding. With our focus correctly pointed we may say that at the heart of creative aspiration lies a sincere expression; one of the individual, the self.
On the Functionality of Music:
What is art but a means to something more elemental? At the very depths of its potential is its connection to the personal. Though, its functionality lies in its ability to serve the superficial as well as the spiritual (if you resonate with such a concept, and if not, then simply, the emotional). As a material entity, musicʼs ultimate purpose is spread throughout culture as entertainment, backing to visual arts, social gatherings, dance, war, cooking, farming, advertisement, sexual aesthetic, death, marriage etc. The importance and functionality of the music we embrace makes its way into all aspects of material life. Though, one must be very conscious of the word “material.” Our reliance on superficial structure may divert us from understanding the personal nature of artistic expression. While the superficial is an inherent aspect of all life, every musician must remember that they have “felt” rather than simply heard; it is this connection to the unexplored self that holds us. The notion of music as a transcendent language is not an original concept, yet we may question how often we contemplate its significance as such, and even more importantly, use it as such.
The Elevation of Purpose:
In its use as a material entity music can be seen as simply functional. But at its essence, it is inspired. It is of purpose. The question must be asked, where does the musicianʼs true focus lie, in the study of the music or the expression that they wish to present? It is expected that the sincere musician will immerse themselves in the intellectual and visceral study of their instrument, but such a calling requires a depth of inspiration. It requires a purposeful drive that, in and of itself, is not superficial, not isolating, but continuous and binding through all people. The Elevation of Purpose is that action which moves us past physical realizations of our being towards a more meaningful connection with others. Such a concept inevitably transcends language but can at least be approached by artistic integrity and sincerity.
While our creative pursuit can bring us toward this ineffable essence we can see that, in truth, it allows only glimpses of it. The rest of our time is spent chasing those moments. Our greatest artistic experiences and accomplishments are only a shadow, a reflection of the “self.” Yet, even this is powerful enough to cause profound reactions in the mind and emotions. Music and the creative experience, thus, allows one to appreciate the depths of our essence and the overarching connection and commonality between individuals. Therefore, a musicianʼs focus may be on the study of their instrument, but also, to simultaneously always be in realization of their expression or purpose for doing so. With this in mind, we serve to always be connected to the meaning and essence of our art form. Jazz guitarist and educator, Pat Martino, spoke on his musical education and his time spent with the masters John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner:
“I studied the moment… as far as the music itself, it was very meaningless compared to the aura… of these individualsʼ presence. So, it immediately turned into a completely different experience than a music student would receive. It wasnʼt the study of music. It was the study of the human experience and social interaction and the psychology of adaptation to the opportunities that arrayed before me.
Martinoʼs perspective is one that transcends the physical act of instrumental musicality and strives to connect with the sincere nature that inspires and arises from great art.
In conclusion, music and the artistic process gives us a glimpse of our most sincere being. Through it, we may gain a greater understanding of the people around us. This essay aims, not to preach but, rather, to act as a meditation on a subject in which we are reminded of the importance of love in our craft and its ability to push our being in positive directions.
Thank you for reading.