An Interesting Question from Robert Fripp’s Diary
“So a question please for interested, innocent audients out there: does it matter to you if the musician/s you love privilege their own performance/career over the group endeavour?” It certainly “matters” but in different and sometimes conflicting ways. If the beloved musician’s group is “The Joe Blow Band” and the beloved musician is Joe Blow himself, I would expect Joe to stand out among the rest of the group and to occupy more musical real estate than the other members, who may be session players or a backup band that accompanies Joe on the road and in the studio. In this scenario, since I am drawn to the music because of Joe, I might be disappointed if Joe were to limit his prominence within the music. But if in addition to being a great oboe player, Joe is also a great band leader who chooses interesting musicians to help him realize his musical vision, I might appreciate being exposed to the talents of the other band members and not mind them sharing the spotlight with my musical hero. Let’s imagine, however, that Joe is a member of a group effort who we’ll call “The Ego Trip,” and I learn after being a fan for several years that Joe is very difficult to work with. He insists on taking 16 measures for a solo when other band members only get 4. After a song is mixed, he returns to the studio when the other band members have left and remixes the material so his oboe is much louder in the mix than all of the other players. Maybe he even erases a tuba solo from a piece and replaces it with another oboe solo. If I became aware that this is how he operates as a member of a band, it would lower my opinion of Joe considerably even if I still happened to like his playing. Great musician, shitty person. In both cases, however, if the recording or the performance moves me, this would also “matter.” With music, painting, literature, etc., if the work resonates aesthetically, processes, personalities, motivations, character flaws, trickery, and so forth would not override this aesthetic appeal. If I were to find out that a composition that I like had been plagiarized or that Joe Blow can’t play the oboe at all and has a studio musician play all of his parts, this would override any initial aesthetic appeal. So there are some boundaries. But great art is great art, in all of its highly subjective glory, and a messy creation process doesn’t necessarily negate this for me no matter how much I agree with the goal of the musician serving the music. But I would not want to play in a band with someone who privileges his or her own performance/career over the group endeavor.