David Andrew is an overly ambitious artist who, in an attempt to practice what he preaches, is recording eight albums this year of varying genres and musical approaches, collaborating with some of his favourite musicians from around the globe. He describes his upcoming album release Being, Consciousness, & Bliss as a Post-Classical Underwater Rave, contending with the ground of reality, the infinite and the need for bodily motion using “fully sick beats”. You can follow his endeavours over on Instagram at @davidjandrew, and by listening to his current release, “Modern Hymns”, on your streaming music platform of choice now.
I once heard about Pablo Casals, a world-renowned cellist who was still practicing four to five hours a day at 81-years-old. When asked why he still continued to practice this much at his level of critical acclaim and advanced age, Casals answered: “Because I think I am making progress.”… Astounding!!!!
Music is an incredible thing… heck, art of any form carries this little built-in benefit: there is no end to the depth of experience. When you learn more about art, about a song form, about how to play a new musical technique, or learn to make art with a new medium, something incredible happens. Your depth of enjoyment is expanded. The more you know, the more you can encounter. The more you know, the greater your experience. And… this is where it gets fun… the greater the depth of encounter and experience, the more, in turn, you are able to comprehend about art and the more you are able to learn about it. It’s a never-ending cycle. You learn something new, that new skill allows you to immerse yourself more fully in the encounter and experience of art. And as a result of your fresh encounter and experience, you are able to pick up new knowledge and skills; skills that weren’t available to you until you had reached a new stage of your encounter and experience. This is what allows an 81-year-old cellist to still answer “I think I am making progress”.
What you then become painfully aware of is the vast multitude of things you could learn and keep learning through all of eternity. There are so many instruments I want to play, so many languages I want to learn, so many forms of art I want to become proficient in, but alas, time races forward and we get no ‘do-overs’. What are we to do with this existential dilemma?
Each one of us is only given a finite time on this earth. No one gets more time. We don’t get to control the quantity. But we DO get to control the quality. And how do we maximize our quality? How do we increase the depth of experience? We live with eyes up and ears open. We live with an anticipation and expectation of wonder.
David Bentley Hart, in his book The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, and Bliss offers to us a thought, that “the beginning of all serious reflection on the world begins in a moment of unsettling or delighted surprise, for no one can adequately explain the mystery in which one finds oneself immersed in every moment.”
It is an invitation to experience wonder. Huston Smith takes us further with this thought in a mystical direction when he writes: “A spiritually realised being is simply a person with an acute sense of the astonishing mystery of everything.”
I want to be that person, eyes open to the astonishing mystery, eager to encounter the surprise of every moment of wonder in this existence. This is the greater motivation for my aspirations as an evergreen student. I want to constantly push back against the temptation to become a professional, that is to ‘rest on my laurels’ and think that I have done the work so now I can produce art and people can tell me how good it is.
No, I constantly want to be in a place where I’m making art that relies on new, untested skills, skills I’m not good at yet. Like learning to play the trumpet over 2020. I wanted to do it because I would be forced to embrace my role as a student. A squawking, stumbling, brass student.
The ego often needs little reminders that it is not in charge. I wanted to do something that I could be embarrassed about if people wanted to see me demonstrate my skills on that instrument. I wanted the wonder, not the safety of already attained skills. I wanted the mystery, not the certainty. I want to feel like I’m being diligent with the time I’ve been given, and at the end of the day, I think I’m still making progress.
This article is part of our Artists Still Live Here online magazine (Issue 3). You can download the full magazine here.