tiistai 5. maaliskuuta 2013

Day 165: Music as self-expression


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I returned to thinking about the reaction towards singing in public which I wrote about yesterday. In the culture I live in there is a taboo towards singing in public, or a very strict social code according to which it is accepted as “normal” or “comprehendible”. The act of singing is seen as a “special talent” to which “special attention” must be paid and certain kind of responses shown; it is not seen as the natural form of human expression it actually is.

I realized the separation in which the western culture has placed itself concerning music when I saw a movie some months ago, which was a depiction of the United States around the 1940's. The movie showed that in that time and place singing was still considered an act of storytelling and self-expression – a way to express oneself to others present. This is a change that has happened in mere decades. In other cultures, such as the more “primal” ones still alive at the edges of our “civilized world”, singing is considered a very natural thing that everyone does, because it has not been defined as a “special talent” with which one can achieve money, fame, glory, admiration and a place above others. Singing is communal, and it would be unfathomable for one to be “better” at it than another. I mean, we don't rank people according to other ways of self-expression, such as the way they speak and move, now do we? No, wait, we do. No wonder everyone's a mess when every way to express ourselves has been placed in front of an imagined jury.

So here if one sings in public there are two possible options according to the social paradigm: 1) one is either putting on a performance or 2) one is crazy. There is an expectation that if one sings it is done to get attention, because that's what the TV teaches us. “The people in all those talent shows are there to be seen! Fucking attention whores!” And yet we glue our eyes to the screen and continue the cycle. This is the only way singing and music is shown in the media – as performance, not expression, not something the viewer could actually participate in (certainly not suggested i.e. in concerts – I don't think the philharmonics would be thrilled to have you climb on stage with your own cello). And if one does not appear to be trying to sing “well” and put on a “good performance”, the motive of the act of singing is unclear. “Is this a joke? What's going on?” There simply is no ready pattern for people to reflect upon, because singing has been isolated into the performance-category of the brain.

I often get urges to sing when there are people around, but there my wish is not to draw attention but to simply be me – if I were alone at home I would've burst into song already – and express myself without limiting myself. This is one reason why I enjoy the company of musicians, because there is no taboo of musical self-expression, and in fact it is encouraged and pretty much a norm in communication. But I now see that as it has been isolated into this limited group of people who have been trained in music according to a certain kind of music tradition and are thus perceived and believed to be “good at music” - music as self-expression has become a form of expression exclusive to the elite.

Now, please don't be fooled by my tone here. I am not blaming you, the society, culture, history, past generations, the producers of TV shows, the heads of corporations or the idols on the stage for this mess. My tone of blame comes from the frustration I write this through because I would like to find a scapegoat for our misgivings. The fact is, however and by whomever our current situation was created, we who are here now are responsible for passing it on – or stopping it right here. And this is why I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to separate myself from music/singing as self-expression – because only when we come to terms with what we have accepted and allowed ourselves to live as are we able to change the course of our actions which compile the culture, society, humanity and the reality we pass on to others here with us and after us.



I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to separate myself from music and singing as self-expression by as a child learning to associate creating music with praise and a sense of self-worth and elevation and then abusing this social trick by giving performances in order to receive positive remarks and feel worthwhile.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself as a child to get hooked on the feelgood I got from the positive reactions of others to my musical self-expression, then altering my starting point for making music from self-expression into reaching the goal of getting praise.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to believe I sing as myself when in fact my starting point for singing ever since a child had been to please others and that it thus has been nothing but characters, personalities, mannerisms, tricks and habits.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to not realize I need to re-learn singing from the starting point of self-expression and that this process is going to take immense humility and probably plenty of time.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to fear singing in public because I'm concerned about “what others will think of me”.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to fear singing in public because I fear my surroundings would interpret my singing to be attention focused / focused on others (“look at me!”) when in fact it is self-focused (“this is me!”).

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to fear the possible mis-interpretations of my surroundings, not realizing that another's perception of me is not who I am, because who I am is only ever HERE as this subjective experience and cannot be fully known by anyone else.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to be affected by the interpretations of others because they appear to believe their interpretations to be true and I convince myself to believe them without looking at my actual experience.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to interpret another paying attention to me when/as I am singing to mean he/she is making an assessment of me in terms of how well I sing as measured on our dominant cultural norms.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to not realize it makes no difference to me how another chooses to dissect and categorize my self-expression as they try to make their experience and the heaps of information received every moment more comprehendible, as this is how the mind functions (unless wholly directed) which applies practically to everyone.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to judge people who sing in public as “attention whores” with no actual consideration over who those people are and what their experience is.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to react with fear to another singing in public as I see another doing what I would like to do but am too afraid to actually live out, and thus to avoid facing my own fears and misgivings judge the other for “just wanting attention” - never looking at myself to see I secretly do the exact same thing.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to fear others will see me as a “crazy person” for singing in public with no obvious reason (such as to draw attention).

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to fear being defined as a “crazy person” because others might then start to avoid me and deny me access to resources.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to fear that others seeing me as a “crazy person” would lead to me being isolated.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to not trust myself to be able to show others through the way I live and stand within myself that I am in fact quite sane and approachable even though I appear uncategorizable when I express myself in singing and my motivation isn't obvious to a bystander.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to react with fear and shame when another stops when I sing amongst our interaction, taking the reaction of another personally without realizing that in this cultural environment it is unexpected for one to sing casually whenever wherever because singing is defined to be a “special thing” and that the reaction of another is then more likely a “culture shock” than anything personal.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to react with fear when I hear another express themselves through singing so powerfully and undeniably that in comparison I feel like I am “losing”.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to participate in the above-mentioned reaction of fear by believing it is valid and founded on facts, when instead I could enjoy the expression of another and learn from what is being shared.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to believe that if another sings well, it is something taken “away” from me – as if the amount of singing skills in the world was a constant and only a certain amount of talent can go around, when in fact there is no limit.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to believe in the separation between a performer and a spectator. *

* I will continue with the music elitism tomorrow.

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