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> Conviction & Complacency
Ben Higgins
post Jun 10 2011, 09:54 AM
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Hi Guys,

Many of you know that I' very fond of a book called Zen Guitar and today I'd like to share a small chapter from it. The chapter is titled Conviction.

Your playing must have conviction. It should show the measure of your belief in what you know to be true, to the point where you would stake your life on it.
Many skilled guitarists play music they don't care for. They ply their trade for money, turning in polished performances, all in a day's work. Sometimes they like the music they're asked to play; sometimes indifferent; sometimes they hate it.
Other skilled players reach a certain level of success and become complacent. Their playing lacks the fire of their youth, the hunger of their earlier struggles.
In Zen Guitar, your inner fire must always show through. Play from the inside out; your sound should stem from the conviction of the soul. This is what makes vital music.
A wise man once said that a person who has nothing to die for hasn't a life worth living. On the path of Zen Guitar, you must take this to heart. In the years leading up to the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia, rock groups played their music knowing it meant imprisonent. Their defiance spawned the dissident movement that eventually brought down the government. When played with total conviction, the guitar has that kind of power.
We all must find that thing we stand for in this life, and, if necessary, go to our death defending. It may be a person or a place, a principle or an ideal. When you find it, play your music with the spirit of the bagpiper leading Scottish troops into battle - eyes fixed straight ahead, propelled forward by song. That is playing the truth in the face of all opposition.
Do not look to be a martyr, though. As J.D. Salinger noted in The Catcher in the Rye, "The mark of an immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of a mature man is that he wants to live humble for one." Be willing to die for your music, but more importantl: live for it.


Quite a big, heavy post I know.. sorry about that. I wrote it word for word so I can't vouch for the Czech history but there's many interesting points that could start a discussion on their own but it's the 3rd paragraph I'm interested in today: Other skilled players reach a certain level of success and become complacent. Their playing lacks the fire of their youth, the hunger of their earlier struggles.

Why do you think this is ? Also, what things could an artist do to stop themselves becoming complacent ?

For me, I think when things become too comfortable and get too easy for us then we forget how hard we need to work for our art and it starts to mean less to us. I believe artists should voluntarily remind themselves of how to live uncomfortably, how to struggle, how to go hungry.. they need to feel that immediacy of life again. To remember how important the smallest thing can be.. food, water, electricity. Instead of laying in the sun in the Bahamas, maybe go and live in a hut in the wilderness for a few weeks ?


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Marek Rojewski
post Jun 10 2011, 10:37 AM
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In all soviet countries in various times playing rock/punk/western music could lead to trouble. But the sole truth is that communism wasn't overthrown by some shipbuilders/wallclimbers/guitarists/the Pope/hello-kitty fans but by itself due to having terrible economy. Of course all those groups love to tell nonsense about how they valiantly fought, while the system would collapse even without their meaningless efforts. - This makes me angry every time forcing me to rant about it -sorry for that wub.gif

When it comes to the main topic: I agree that such things happen quite often, many of the bands I really like can be named, even the biggest names... Take Metallica or Iron Maiden, one band tries to change from album to album but the change often yields poor results, while the other band haven't changed much and is happy to release really similar stuff since the dawn of metal....

But I also don't want to judge people to much... Zen philosophy values strive for perfection and always trying to be better in everything You do. I agree with this philosophy and it would be wonderful to make progress in it. But human psychology is a very complex thing and because of that people will take different decisions.

After all some people strive for perfection in a music context, while others start a band because for example they love to be on stage. Such person, having a setlist of great hits can realize his dreams while stopping "artistic development" at all. For example Scorpions were giving great shows few years ago (don't know what the current situation is), using words from Zen Guitar "kokoro ire" could be felt/seen so even when singing same old songs they still believed/felt them and could transmit feelings to the audience.

I don't know how one becomes and how one can prevent himself from becoming complacent. Most probably it depends on the "true goals", because if You have a real desire for something than You can work to obtain it. I don't think that one can overcome it without "true desire".

PS: hope it is possible to understand what my poor talking means.

EDIT: about things such as living in wilderness for few weeks --> yep there are things that can suddenly inspire someone, but I don't think that it can be planed.

This post has been edited by Marek Rojewski: Jun 10 2011, 11:12 AM


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Ben Higgins
post Jun 10 2011, 10:48 AM
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Great post Marek and yes, your words make perfect sense.. I can understand and imagine about the communist thing ! wink.gif

Yes, it's still possible to play the old material with the same passion and fire that you once had.. the 'Kokoro Ire' (Inclusion of the heart's spirit) can always be there if the band still enjoys performing and seeing the effect their music has. One could never accuse Maiden of losing their onstage passion.. or even Metallica. But when it comes to studio albums, a lot of the metal giants can definitely be accused of playing it safe and enjoying the 'good life' a little too much.

I think a big factor in the issue of musical complacency is the level of comfort and ease we have in life. The less we have in life, the more important every little thing becomes (our last bit of money, food, our possessions) and the more we have in life, they can easily become less important to us because we don't have to fight for them anymore.. there's no real threat of them being taken away (or at least we think).

When we have to struggle, our fight and spirit shows in our lyrics and in our music.. that doesn't mean we can only write about fighting and struggling.. what I mean is that everything takes on a deeper meaning to us, so even a love song or just a calm, reflective song can still have more passion and meaning because of the harsh realities that are in our daily lives. Our art cannot help but be coloured by our state of life. smile.gif

This post has been edited by Ben Higgins: Jun 10 2011, 10:49 AM


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Cosmin Lupu
post Jun 10 2011, 12:20 PM
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True wisdom, both from Ben and Marek!

We usually become complacent because there is no challenge anymore in what we do - things come easy smile.gif and there's the other side of the coin: we become complacent when we don't have the desired results and we're not able to take a step back, analyze and see where we went wrong. It's usually easier to give up than to find a solution and as long as our lives are not depending on that solution, we will eventually become complacent.

I know many people that follow that road and far too less people who are harnessing willpower, knowledge, wisdom and love for what they do, in order to re-invent themselves - stay young, fresh and inspire everyone around smile.gif

Let's stay fresh, shall we ? tongue.gif


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MonkeyDAthos
post Jun 10 2011, 02:39 PM
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Iguess we can not blame people, but the times in which they live, i bet must of the "kids" nowadays don't care about "revalutions, spirit, changing, creating, but if they have money on their cellphone....it's like Ben things became too easy.


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Ivan Milenkovic
post Jun 10 2011, 10:00 PM
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I agree with Cosmin, we usually stop working hard when there is lack of challenge or motivation of some sort. I'm not an expert to behavioural sciences, but it's evident in everyday's life.

It's important to appreciate smaller things in life, and being honest with ourselves. Why are we here, what are we doing, is this what we like? Being honest will always lead us to the right path.


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Todd Simpson
post Jun 10 2011, 10:25 PM
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Great thread smile.gif Some serious truths here to taken to heart. The "Struggle" itself, no matter what form it takes can often inform our "Truth" and playing.

Also, it's somewhat similar to something Bruce Lee once said (Had to tie Martial Arts, so many cross points with music) "Each strike should have Emotional Content, not anger, Emotional Content". That is to say each individual strike, whether of the pick or the fist, should have some emotion behind it .

The point being that every decision you make as a player while playing whether your aware of it or not, should have an emotional root. That can come directly from what you are playing over/against, or if playing guitar only/solo with no backing, it can come from within. Just like everything else it takes.....here it comes again....PRACTICE!

This post has been edited by Todd Simpson: Jun 10 2011, 10:45 PM


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