I have spoken to many people about art (covering much more than simply music itself), from people who have no idea what is art to artistic professionals who do it for a living. In those conversations, I notice myself advocating the approach of art in the spirit of an amateur, even to professionals.
More often than not, I lament the fact that many aspiring musicians would be increasingly critical of the smallest mistakes as they become better in their art. Probably in a self-assuring attempt to prove that they are more musically sensitive and aware. I myself am not spared from such a tendency and I do have to continually remind myself to cast away such a malicious approach to art and retain the purest spirit of an amateur.
Amateur. As the term itself originally suggests, it is not simply about the Art itself, but doing it solely for the love of it. Beethoven, despite being (near) deaf, had attended 11-year-old Liszt’s concert in 1823 and praised him for his performance. Had he encouraged the young virtuoso based on the little or even none which he had heard, or was it more for the passion which he had seen and felt in the prodigy? Beethoven hadn’t earned much for his compositions as well, but it doesn’t take much to see that he was not writing for money. He hadn’t connected well with Rossini’s or rather, Italian opera in general, because they lacked something which he personally valued so deeply. If he had wanted to compose for money, coming up with a comical opera wouldn’t have been much of a problem for him. Even as a professional composer who was continually struck by financial issues, he would never compromise on what he wanted to express through his music to appeal to the masses superficially. Evident in all which he had left behind, his music was not simply a product of a professional duty, but more of that exhibiting an immense love not simply for music, but for life itself. Daniel Barenboim had recognised music is not an end in itself, but a means to understand life (in his 2006 Reith Lectures) and reconcile people (in the setting up of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra). It was this certain quality in these great artists which had touched me and it is this which I want to give away by encouraging artistic appreciation and good taste in the spirit of an amateur.