I make no apologies for this next statement–I LIKE musicians. Professional-types, hobbyists, aspiring beginners–it makes no difference their level of expertise. I’ve come to recognize it as more than a skill or a passion. I think “musician” might be a personality type.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, in working with several musicians over the last few years, they tend to make me throw things and cuss a lot. As a sub-group among artists, they often seem wear their creative energies like an obsessive-compulsive red badge of just-let-me-play, no-one-understands-me thinking. I have met a few who are drama queens or introverts or egotistical jerks hiding behind strings or keys. Cooperation seems like the farthest thing from their minds.
But this love for the musical personality is genuine and not some throw-back to my wanna-be hippie days or an unfulfilled groupie fantasy. Musicians of all kinds fascinate me, and while attending a recent music mixer at the newly reopened Darjeeling Cafe hosted by the Staunton Music Guild, I think I hit on why.
In spite of themselves, in spite of their egos and their desire to be recognized, they innately GET something the rest of the world is trying to rediscover. When the music starts, musicians understand that community, cooperation and mutual respect are the most effective and meaningful ways to make beautiful music. The other night I watched a dozen diverse musicians, some of whom had never met, mingle, talk, share ideas and join together to make amazing music. Instant community based on a shared vision.
What I observed strikes me as the perfect example of what Alan Moore is calling “The Quiet Revolution of Cooperation.” Moore contends that a parallel economic system based on shared resources, cooperation and the empowerment of individuals within their own communities is rising up in the U.S. to supplement the top-down corporate model. He points out the following statistics:
- 120 million Americans are members of cooperatives, nearly one third of the population.
- Neighborhood corporations number in the 4,000-5,000 range and are related to housing, land development, stores, businesses and factories.
- Worker co-ops are growing more slowly, numbering between 500-1000, as people experiment with one-person-one-vote democracy in the workplace.
My sense is that the music and publishing industries have been experiencing the rise of this parallel economic system for a number of years. The ability to self-publish music and books and join together in networks of independent writers and musicians makes the importance of cooperation and community all the more critical to success in an ever-expanding marketplace. So whatever the commodity–food, energy, housing, music, books, goods, services–a revolution of grassroots connections does appear to be growing in a number of places.
Cooperation between human beings based on a shared vision. Yep, that’s some pretty beautiful music no matter where you put it into action. Radical man.