There is a natural phenomenon within the arts community where artists generally only interact with similar artists—painters talk to painters, dancers talk to dancers, musicians to musicians and so on. But why is this so? I think that branching out and seeking inspiration from a variety of resources is key to creating highly original work.
Of course, there are the obvious reasons: similar lifestyles, similar challenges, and similar pools of knowledge from which to share. On some levels, I get it. As a performing musician who has spent the past seven years steeped in music school and conservatory, I understand why we gravitate to others like ourselves. However, I wonder if in some way that this may be hurting us or stifling our creativity? When musicians or any other kind of similar performers spend so much time around each other, how much truly original work can be generated?
For example, when only musicians hang out together, both professionally and socially, the strongest source of input into their artistic lives may only be other musicians. In fact, it gets more narrowly defined than that. It is my experience that horn players stick together, violinists stick together, woodwinds, low brass, etc. It is really common. Sure there will always be exceptions to the rule, and this is not an absolute truth (very few things are). But what is important here is to realize that this is the case in many performing arts settings. I call this social condition, cultural insulation.
Why is this a negative thing? Well, for a while it is actually not a negative influence. When performers are first to learning their craft, it is good to be around others learning the same thing. According to constructivist theories on learning, a process called scaffolding takes place where the learner joins together bits and pieces of information from various sources to make a mental construct about the subject being learned. For an (elementary) example, if I learn from Joe that I need soil to grow plants, and I learn from Jane that I need to water my plants, I have then learned that plants need both soil and water to grow. The problem with cultural insulation is that once we have a working body of knowledge, we have problems when it comes time to stop modeling others and make our own artistic decisions.
Throughout my time in conservatory, I saw time and time again hordes of talented young musicians all striving to be better than each other. Something you would expect to see in a conservatory right? The problem was, that because they were all mostly influenced by each other in this microcosm-music-society, the performances were all incredibly similar, reaching an almost homogenous level. It was literally recital after recital of exactly the same thing. This sort of problem has been going on for decades in music schools, and I will bet that it similar in other performing institutions.
PERFORMING ARTISTS NEED TO MIX AND MINGLE WITH OTHER ARTISTS FROM DIFFERENT GENRES.
Once we know a good deal about the mechanics and technique of our performance area, then we should start thinking about how to use the tools we have learned to create original and inspiring performances. This is key to the originality in the live performance.
Over the course of this blog, I’ll dig more deeply into why this is important for growth in our artistry. This is important for non-performing artists as well as it helps to create a richness and fullness in life.
There is so much out there for us to learn and enrich our lives and art by. I’ll help you think of creative ways to meet others, to invigorate your performances with new material and to make your life more well rounded by constantly absorbing ideas from the world around you.