It is often said that life inspires art; that to its ultimate goal, art takes inspiration and pays homage to nature and to life. Over the years, it has been an obsession for artists; to imitate life. But what about art, what does it teach us about life? What is the takeaway that one can take from music for instance, but also more broadly from the arts, and carry over to its own way? How can music and art transform someone, and help to aim and reach a better, more fulfilled life? How can an artistic life overtake the limits of its scope to reach the universal influence of the human mind? Let’s take the subject of music as the medium of art and understand how its practice changes us.
The practice of art takes discipline and willpower. The strength of keeping a dedicated music routine for instance, throughout the daily challenges, and seeing the results unfold over time is a habit that once carried to other aspects of life offers rewarding results. Whether it is through setting new goals, developing new skills, or simple life habits, following the rigorous discipline of the practice of an instrument or of a dance routine, offers similar levels of achievement and satisfaction. The capacity in adapting to a situation, through change and discomfort — such as the ones of the improvisers— and the discipline required, is another set of skills that derive from artistic practice.
Of course, no art practitioner approaches creative growth without a true sense of patience. Progress reveals itself, and like the first rays of spring sunshine, surprises the patient student. It is he, who truly understands the meaning of building through patience, with no judgement of oneself and waiting for the results to magically reveal themselves. It takes daily repetition, precise study and isolation of the detail, and a certain ceremonial behaviour with the medium, whether the brush of the painter or the instrument of the musician, to contemplate progress.
It is through an open mind, a constant curiosity, and a wish to explore and discover that the artist makes his way throughout his artistic devoted life. And very like one does in his personal life, it is by being open to suggestions, ideas, and through the unknown, the discomfort, and the wish for change and new horizons. The famous saying of thinking outside the box, is in the situation of art, a daily routine!
There is also a sense of optimism which emerges from the practice of art. Indeed, the artist looks and sees beauty everywhere. If it is not aesthetic beauty, it is the beauty of the interest. Everything is interesting, and there is something to take from everything. The beauty of the ordinary. And this allows to elevate one up in front of challenging and difficult life moments.
Art teaches us to look up for models and inspiration, to look for what has worked before, to look for past creative successes, and to understand how they came to exist. Applied to our daily life, the wish to look for inspiration and guidance is precious. It is essential for oneself to find guides and mentors. Whether they are alive or dead matters less than what they can teach us. Their art and what they left behind is enough to support the human being in his own development and growth.
Early in his career, the artist and especially the performer learns the importance of a healthy body and a healthy mind in order to resist the intense life of practicing and performing, uneven sleep, and ever-changing situations, as well as the physical and mental demands of the development and the building of the career, with its doubts and challenges. Inspiration is often taken from the athlete, whose life is not dissimilar to the one of the performers. The composer, the writer, and the creator too know the importance of a healthy mind and body in order to balance both productivity and creativity.
Art does not exist without the cooperation of human beings. Whether it is the composer and the performer, the choreographer and the dancer, the writer, and the actor. From the composer’s mind to the audience’s ears for instance, music is the result of collaboration between numerous musicians who have learned to communicate, overcome challenges and understand each other; a set of skills that is universal. A lesson in diplomacy and collaboration one could say!
There is a certain beauty in unveiling the progress and possibilities, step by step, day after day, practice after practice. This is what truly keeps the artist going — and this applies to many other fields of work, such as sports practice; the unveiling of proficiency, the opening of new doors and possibilities, and the new explorations which derive from it, creating a sense of excitement each time it happens.
I find that the best illustration of an artist’s progress is the one of a spiral climbing up and up; coincidentally, this is also the illustration that I find best to explain life and progress through it.
Art allows the being to unblock the mind and release creative juices, and toward endless possibilities. When one does carry it away throughout the rest of his approach to life, one finds everything to be quite limitless too.
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Glenn Gould Practicing J.S. Bach