Musings on Music: There's No "I" In Band

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Collaboration. One of the most epic buzzwords of the last decade, and by other names probably much longer. Its brings out such a warm, fuzzy feeling in us. The idea of working together towards a common goal. Essentially all it boils down to, another one of those kindergarten pedagogies, is cooperation. It brings out these feelings of “if only we could all get along!”

Being part of the western world, and more specifically from the U.S, the idea of individualization gets burned into our brains. It’s the American way. From Horace Greely and “Go west young man” to Oscar Wilde and “In the real world there are only individuals”, western culture perpetuates the idea of striking out and making a name for yourself. It’s no surprise then, that often times, people don’t play well together, it’s part of who we are.

Music seemed to be the last safe haven for collaboration. “The Band” is, at it’s essence, all about musicians collaborating with other musicians. It’s about something bigger and better emerging when a group of people come together. But in recent years we’ve seen lots of front men striking out on their own to do their own things, from Julian Casablanca all the way down to Fergie.

When we were at SxSW you could see that collaboration wasn’t dead. The photo above is of two complete strangers coming together to make something entirely new. It was incredible to watch. A man approaches another man playing the drums, already surrounded by a crowd, and without saying anything the drummer drops a beat for this stranger to rap over. It was intuitive, instinctual, like they had connected over the music, and just had to get this thing out of their systems. You might make the argument that the beauty doesn’t come just from collaboration, it comes from the apparently discordant pieces coming together and making an all new harmony. But in the end, that still takes valuing collaboration enough to try new things with new people. It requires an openness at the heart of music’s culture to experiment with new musicians. No longer precious about the art, just open to the outcome.

What would music look like if it lost, what some consider, one of it’s core elements, collaboration? Would it still be everything we love if it became the simple pursuit of individuals? If strangers stopped making strange new things together? I guess the question is, buried in all this pontificating, have you even noticed a difference in the music you listen to? Do you care if music becomes the past time of one unbending individual? Or do you think that something bigger can come out of the collaboration of many people pushing each other further? Does it matter?

-Joey Camire

Original photo taken at SxSW 2010 by Joey Camire