Leadership, mentoring, art and music…

Last week, I attended the Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s ArtWorks launch, which is focused on “Leading Through Practice: Artist-led Leadership in Participatory Settings.”

It was an amazing day (see the liveblog at amplified11.com/ArtWorksPHF ) and certain themes emerged, particularly as they relate to support structures for artists.The themes of sustainability and cross-disciplinary learning/practice came up a few times, which inspired me to think about how they relate to pop/rock musicians.

It seems that a lot of the infrastructural role that (often centrally funded) arts organisations play in the (broadly) non-commercial arts (dance/theatre/fine art) worlds are deferred in music to record labels – at least in the perception of the artists. When I asked on Twitter about where musicians get their support/encouragement/teaching/motivation from (all things that an arts organisation structure would supply in most other art environments), and whether it was ever distinct from the commercialisation of the end product, I got some really interesting responses from Mike Scott of the Waterboys, (@mickpuck on twitter), archived over on ExquisiteTweets. Click here to read that.

The conversation brings into focus some of the role of the Auteur in popular music – it’s great to read Mike’s response, he has clearly had a self-fed drive to produce music that is ‘great’ from an early age, taking the emotional inspiration of the great rock records of his youth and channeling the desire to connect in the same way into making his own music. (this article by Richard Curtis suggests he’s succeeded) – and the degree of success that Mike has had over the last 25 years shows that in his case, that innate drive was more than enough to produce great work.

But popular musicians in general have no culture – or indeed language – for ‘incubator’ spaces. Supported, mentored environments in which to make their art and think about what it means in the context of their own lives and their culture. We rarely consider what it would mean to do that, to do anything other than respond to that which we are most instinctively, viscerally drawn to in the music of our youth… Our incubator is the bedroom, the band practice room, and those who manage to introduce genuine innovation into their own practice are those who can self-motivate, whose innate artistic vision is already iconoclastic enough to push them to those ends.

What about the rest? What about the potential for such experimentation, for exploring what being human means through our music, that gets ignored because it’s never presented as a possible path, because the environment to do it in doesn’t exist?

Read more here

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