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The Little da Vinci in Musicians

Updated: Jun 1, 2021

The minds of musicians seem mysterious--how do we think? Why is there so much to learn even after we have spent years in the same field? When I was trying to answer these questions, I couldn't help but think of how music is so much more than notations and sounds. Music has led me to explore different aspects of the world. Random I know, but I thought of Leonardo da Vinci because interestingly the various roles of this polymath correspond to musicians. I found it interesting to present it in a way that resembles personality types.

The Curious Astronomer

Our curiosity about something greater is what inspires us and gives us purpose and vision in life and arts. It is the universe beyond Earth's atmosphere, the circle of life, the imagination of the unknown that inspired us to be storytellers. Even when we practise and perform, seeing and hearing music with God's eye view help us create beyond the physical constraints we have.

The Knowledgeable Scientist

Why is being logical important even when some music are meant to be sentimental? Musicians are constantly learning more about our bodies--how they are built, how pressing a key actually involves not only the finger but also wrist, arm, torso, feet etc. How we create sounds with fluid, natural movements to produce the sound we want without excessive tension; how to use our body in a sustainable way; how our mind learns; how our body reacts to stress and how to cope with the fight-or-flight response (stage fright); how sound is produced in different instruments; how sound travels differently in various performance venues etc. Questions I typically ask myself include 'Why am I rushing? What am I feeling insecure about? Where do I usually hold tension when I am stressed? What are my tendencies?' I have definitely learnt more about myself through music.

The Observant Architect and Draughtsman

Architects and draughtsmen turn what we know in theory into something tangible. They thoroughly understand structures, proportions, and where pillars need to be placed. They see three dimensional view of buildings and pay attention to intricate details. In music, we analyse the structure of music, identify the building blocks and how they develop and build on each other. We find the fishbone of the story--what we are building towards, what makes the story interesting and captivating, the suspensions, the climax, as well as when, where and how we maximise the sense of resolution, satisfaction or conflict. We practise slowly so that even when we play in tempo, we do not compromise the details.

The Creative Painter

This is the fun part of being a musician. We get to feel the season, temperature, scent, humidity, colour, and texture of our work. It is the adventurous journey of creating with the use of all senses and through exploring every potential option. What would happen if I take this path here? What if I choose a different colour, how would it affect the work as a whole? These decisions add freshness, human and artistic quality to the structure. Like life, we are creating while wondering how life is going to unfold.

The Empathetic Humanist

Music is closely tied to history, poetry, different art forms, and moral philosophy. It is a media through which we relate to emotions, interact with and connect to the minds and souls within ourselves and with people from miles away and centuries ago. It inspires us to trace our sources, to study classical wisdom and artistic works. By entering someone else's sound world, we become capable of empathy and become the guide for people who want to enter these sound worlds.

'Art is never finished, only abandoned' -- Leonardo da Vinci

The deepest feelings are those that cannot be verbalised and shared even with the closest people in our lives. Music helps us relate to the world we are in and realise we are not alone. It gives us hope. We push the limits while connecting to the innermost part of ourselves. There is always more to discover. As Leonardo da Vinci said, 'Art is never finished, only abandoned.'

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