For those who don’t know me, my name is William Carrigan, and I am in charge of operations and business strategy here at Open G Records. You are currently reading the first of a series of blog entries that I am writing to advance a concept that plays an important role in our strategy at Open G, and is also important for anyone seeking to make a meaningful and successful statement in their artistic career. This concept is a phenomenon called the ideological echo chamber; and although it is most often associated with political and religious groups, it can just as easily be used to describe groups within the art world, particularly those possessing a “rich tradition.” (Side bar: If I ever start to seriously use phrases like that, shoot to kill.) Put simply, an echo chamber is a group of people who think alike, primarily share ideas amongst themselves, and rarely venture outside of their group to seek the counsel of others. Though my comments will generally be directed at those who would identify themselves as “classical” musicians (after all, this is a “classical” record label’s blog), artists from all art forms and genres will hopefully find ideas in these entries that they can use to avoid artistic echo chambers and further their own unique vision in new and exciting ways.
We live in a time when most major universities in the United States have a freestanding music school that offers degrees in classical music and jazz music. I don’t think it’s absurd to predict that as soon as the traditions of rock and hip hop have been quantified and shaped into a curriculum that can be shoveled into the mouths of eager students, degree programs for these genres will come to exist in many of the same schools. In all of these programs, students will spend hours learning everything they could ever forget about the “rich tradition” of their chosen style of music. They will stay up late cramming for exams and having deep conversations wondering what they will do after they have graduated into a world where people don’t seem to care about their art. Many will graduate without an answer to this question and will postpone the real world by going on to get their graduate degrees. Those who are truly enamored with academia will spend even more time in school getting their doctorates. When graduation can no longer be avoided, a select few may go out into the world and pursue a career creating and performing, though the majority will fall back on non-musical jobs or become professors. These professors will go on to teach the next generation of students, and the cycle will begin again.
Now, I don’t mean to imply that school is horrible and that music with historical traditions should just keel over and be dead already. Personally, I am grateful for the time I was able to spend studying music during my undergraduate years, and the general knowledge that I now have of the Western musical tradition has proven to be helpful in my practice and in my playing. What concerns me, however, is that those of us who care about historical music face a cultural dead end if we continue to close ourselves off within self-feeding collectives stubbornly adhering only to our selective “enlightened” traditions. After all, if “real” music died in 1897 (Brahms) or 1955 (Charlie Parker) or 1970 (Jimi Hendrix) or even 2006 (J Dilla), then what the hell is the point of being a musician anymore? Nobody really gets THAT excited about a cover band.
No, I’ll be writing these blogs in hopes that they will be a starting point for those who are looking for ways to break through the crushing mold of tradition to create something that inspires both their own artistic spirit and, I believe more importantly, the imagination of the community around them. Along the way, I will point out people and groups that I believe are doing exciting work in this regard; and I welcome any and all suggestions of artists who have inspired you through my email which is listed below. I hope that these blogs will prove as challenging to your own artistic beliefs and priorities as the process of writing them will be for my own.
Until next time,
William Carrigan is a bass player and songwriter based in New York City, as well as the current Chief Operations Officer at Open G Records. He graduated from East Carolina University with degrees in classical and jazz performance and currently attends New York University in pursuit of a Master’s degree in music business. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.