Kansas City is all about baseball lately. As of last night, the Royals are going to be in the World Series for the second year in a row. Last year everyone was predicting a win against the Giants by comparing all the similarities between the lead up to their last win in 1985 and the road to the World Series in 2014. The Royals ended up losing the Championship last year, but this year they have another chance.
Much of baseball is about being able to try over and over again. Unlike in other sports, the teams play each other multiple times in a row before moving on to the next team. Even if a game is lost, it doesn’t mean the series is a failure. The batter gets multiple chances to hit the ball, and the pitcher gets even more chances to throw a ball inside the zone. And when the pitcher isn’t performing that well, he’ll usually get some chances to make up for it before the next pitcher comes in to replace him.
Fans, especially, give athletes extra opportunities to play well. We give our team and our favorite players the benefit of the doubt. We like to give them chances to make up for a bad throw, a sloppy play, a lost game or even a disappointing year. We want to see them win and will keep cheering for them until they do.
With the fine arts, this is a different story. If a soloist is up on stage and blanks on memory, we conclude that he must be a bad musician. If a performer obviously hits the wrong note, we scoff at her abilities, and if an orchestra doesn’t manage to stay together, we conclude that they have no talent. There is immense pressure to be perfect as a musician, and professional artists get paid a miniscule amount compared to their imperfect, athletic counterpoints (but that is a topic for another blog post).
Not only do professional musicians get judged harshly, but any person playing music is held to a certain standard. Many people believe that they are not good enough to play at all because of this conventional thought. As David Levitin, neuroscientist and musician, writes, “why is it that millions of people who take music lessons as children, relatively few continue to play music as adults? [. . .] people tell me that they love music listening, but their music lessons ‘didn’t take.’ I think they’re being too hard on themselves. The chasm between musical experts and everyday musicians that has grown so wide in our culture makes people feel discouraged, and for some reason this is uniquely so with music. Even though most of us can’t play basketball like Shaquille O’Neal, or cook like Julia Child, we can still enjoy playing a friendly backyard game of hoops, or cooking a holiday meal for our friends and family.”[i] Why are we so hard on ourselves when it comes to music? Even with people who have never played an instrument before, anyone, no matter what their age, still has a chance to bring music into their life.
Furthermore, how much of a chance do we give to music outside the typical music we bring into our life through listening? Most people have a set genre or genres that they feel comfortable with; oftentimes, it is the music that they grew up with, the music they listened to as teenagers. In many cases people will maybe hear one or two songs of a certain genre and dismiss it. I have heard many people claim that they do not like rap music, and yes, maybe they do not prefer to listen to whatever rap artist they heard on the radio (who could blame them), but I’m certain that they haven’t listened to much beyond that. People tend to judge entire genres based on one artist, or even just a song or two. But, there are different styles within genres, there are good and bad artists within genres, and not all rap music is crude (or too repetitive or whatever reason someone may have for not giving it a chance). Especially in the case of new art music or contemporary composers, many people assume they don’t like it because they haven’t heard much, but there are so many people writing so many different styles that it would be hard not to find at least one piece or even one composer that you like (if you actually searched for it).
So, the next time you are watching your favorite sports team, think about how you can be a better music fan. Give performers the benefit of the doubt, give yourself a chance at being a musician (no matter how amateur), and seek the adrenaline of finding a new genre or piece of music the way you yearn for that rush you get from cheering for a winning team. Oh, and also, go Royals!
By Anna Brake
Find out more ways to bring music into your life by reading Music Trend of the 21st Century: Technology Influencing Culture. Now available here on amazon in print and as an ebook.
[i] Daniel Levitin, This Is Your Brian on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession (New York: Dutton, 2006), 189-90.