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Composition and Ego: Why the hell are artists so sensitive?

Hello everyone. For my first post, I'd like to offer a little psychology on creative acts, particularly composition. I apologize if it's long, complicated, and refuses to end. My music seems to suffer the same fate.

Any creative act is an expression of identity; the artist's interpretation, reaction, and reflection on life. For this reason, they are intricately connected to ego and sense of self. In my opinion, the most honest thing a person can do is to create art. There is no deeper search for truth than to face the blank page and attempt to bring it to life with colors, pictures, words, or in our case - with music marks. What you put on the page is a reflection of yourself. After all, there is no sharper lens into who you are than the fruit of your mind and heart. Perhaps I'm biased not having children myself, but I believe that artworks are a clearer and more lasting gift to the world of who you are than even your own children who will inevitably go their own way - your art is unchanging and intrinsically "you".

The mind wants to protect the integrity of its sense of identity for obvious reasons. Therefore, it puts up it's best Star Wars force field around the ego to shield it from alien attacks. This naturally extends to any creative works produced by the freewheeling, free-thinking, loose cannon that most artists are by nature. These works are a potential threat to the ego and so it regards any criticism on the work as a criticism on the identity and as a matter of course, it's first reaction is rejection and denial. This is why it's so difficult to argue with someone on their tastes in art. You are trying to tell them that not only do their tastes in art suck, but that there is something "wrong" about them as a person as well.

If you accept my premise, I think you will also agree that presenting your art to the world for acceptance and critical review is akin to putting your ego's head on the chopping block to be summarily removed by an indiscriminate executioner; i.e. the public and your peers.

Granted, there are many degrees of sensitivity and some artists seem almost immune to negative reaction to criticism but they are a minority to be sure. I would venture that most of them have this nonchalance because of carefully constructed defenses such as acceptance of one's own limitations and mediocrity, which reduces the importance of the artist's work. However, that is not really a good thing for confidence and I would wager that if you are one of those people who are self-effacing about your compositions, in the back of your mind, from time to time, you probably think, "To hell with that. I'm the next Beethoven baby." At least I do... but then I listen to Beethoven and I'm rudely awakened to reality. Ah well... perhaps if medical science advances enough, I can live to be 150 and my music will evolve? One can always hope.

Jeff

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I have no problem with atonal music but I find I can rarely relate to it on any level other than a cerebral one. For me, the comparison of atonal music with tonal music is similar to comparing abstract paintings like Pollock to Renaissance art like Da Vinci. While the former may be beautiful and affect me on an emotional level, the feeling is quite detached from sentiment and the latter pull me in with human drama. It doesn't make one superior and the other inferior. As Julie said, they have to be evaluated on their own merit.

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