Music 256a, Reading Response #7

Music, for me, began as a fairly solitary activity. I discovered music that I enjoyed through internet searches, and when I bought my first guitar, I spent hours alone in my room practicing to tabs I found online. But it wasn’t until I began playing music with others that I considered music as a career and a calling. Sure, those multi-hour bedroom practice sessions were gratifying – I loved finally being able to play a riff that I worked on for days  – but playing in a band?? That was something special. Being in the middle of a song, exchanging sly smiles and brief eye contact with the other musicians, celebrating when we made it through a difficult section: this wasn’t just music, it was community. Ever since the revelation of musical collaboration entered my life, I’ve increasingly considered community-building to be the most important result of music making, perhaps even more than expression. This is why Chapter Seven, with its discussions of social tools, participation vs. presentation, and human connection, resonated with me deeply. 


I found the exploration of anonymity on page 363 particularly interesting, as it seems to me that we often associate music making with specific identity. Musicianship can be a core part of someone’s personality, and musicians are often in front of crowds, inherently recognizable. But with a more participatory approach, the line between the listener and audience can blur or even disappear. I truly believe that every person has some music-making ability, if prompted in the right manner, and the lens of anonymity allows us to separate music-making from the formal designation of musician. And that notion even more expands the community-building aspect of music – if anyone can make music, then everyone can experience the boundary-crossing, ego-shedding, communication-encouraging space that music can and should create.


The other principle that especially caught my mind’s eye was “not everything worthwhile is a problem to be solved.” In the midst of designing, coding, and iterating, I can often find myself feeling a bit out of my league, or at least unexperienced. Chunity adventures have been, on the whole rewarding, but, in the moment, stressful and sometimes discouraging. I feel that I need to solve every problem and have more competency than I possess. But a corollary of Principle 7.11B, to me, is that my sometimes simplistic structures don’t have to be made more complex or impressive, just for the sake of technical prowess. If what I make strikes me as interesting – although simple – then it might just be good enough after all. Just as I try to focus not on the most impressive guitar parts, but the most memorable ones, I’m slowly becoming more comfortable with focusing on coding and design approaches that accept the simple as effective. Maybe that my participatory approach to artful design - I might not designate myself as an “artful designer” quite yet; but I believe that everyone can design artfully, and I’m joining in, trying my best, and finding community.