Found myself looking back at some old ‘blog’ posts that never made it to this newer version of our website and this one struck me as worth re-sharing. (I admit to having fixed more than a few typos)
January 12, 2008
I found a sweet old book at our local antique store a long time ago, and bought it not for its contents but for the way it would look on my shelf. What can I say, i’m a visual person first. Anyway, the other day something prompted me to open it up and read it. Its a book called “Sesame and Lilies” Three lectures by John Ruskin, LL.D. The “revised and enlarged edition” is 4 inches tall with minuscule type… Near as I can tell it was revised in 1871. In reading the first essay I initially found myself simply enjoying the old language. Very soon, however, what he was saying started to resonate…in a big way.
He began by discussing a parent’s desire to have their child receive an education which shall “lead to an advancement in life.” He says, “It never occurs to the parents that there may be an education which in itself is an advancement in Life;…” He then discusses the idea that what this kind of “advancement in life” means is “…becoming conspicuous in life…” He goes on to say essentially that its not about “… the mere making of money, but the being known to have made it; not the accomplishment of any great aim, but the being seen to have accomplished it. … we mean the gratification of our thirst for applause.” He continues from there, and makes a point to say that he is not attacking or defending this impulse, but merely pointing out how “it lies at the root of effort”.
My take. As much as we try to convince ourselves that our primary goal is to share our music and make people happy, attention and applause is unavoidably part of the equation. Perhaps it’s the idea that we need some kind of validation that we’re actually succeeding in making people happy and without that acknowledgement in the form of applause or other praise, we can’t be sure. That said, I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had our assumptions proven quite wrong when we were sure that we’d failed to please an audience. It may happen immediately after a show when that person who sat with their arms crossed, never smiling, approaches you to say how much they enjoyed it. But it usually happens over a much longer period of time when, long after giving up on a venue you want desperately to play, they finally book you saying you’ve been on their list for years. Right or wrong, it is this reward for our efforts that energizes us as performers. Becoming conspicuous was never a goal for me as I am uncomfortable with a lot of praise and attention. However, I have (perhaps regrettably) become at least partially dependent on that praise and attention to keep doing what I love to do. Still, I know in my heart that having begun writing songs at a very young age for no one but myself to hear, I would continue to do it whether I had an audience or not. And it is this fact, that carries me through those times (and there are many) when there is no applause.