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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Playing without the fear of losing

In my regional newspaper Coen Simon, a Dutch philosopher, was interviewed. He wrote a book about guilt; a book I need to read because part of it is an interesting argument about sports. Sports, he says, has become economized (economicized? whatever) - it has become a domain where gaining has become the main goal. You play to win.

Simon thinks - at least according to my usually not too philosophical newspaper - that is wrong. Our society   has become a society where gaining, growth, winning, being the best and the biggest has become the norm. The way we sport reflects that. Simon thinks we should go back to a world where sport is essentially the playing of games: something you do together, something where you realize that if someone has to win someone else has to loose - a world where losers and winners are on an equal footing, and where you realize that when you have lost you made the game possible in the first place.

Great, great, great. I love people who invent their own mission impossible. Convince the world that soccer, baseball and chess is not about winning - not even about winning the battle against obesity. We have trouble even to think that thought - let alone to make it reality.

I especially love this because it reflects some of my ideas about making music. I understand that playing an instrument requires 'mastering' it. And that that is a process with no end - my experience is that people who start playing an instrument in some way buy themselves into a paradigm which requires them to become ever better. And I include myself in that. I want to learn to play the 5-string banjo better, faster, louder, with more swing. It is one of our 'codes of culture': the professional musician - the music specialist - as the role model for an entire music culture.

But at the same time I know that precisely this 'athletic view of music' (Bruno Nettl) is the cause for so many people abandoning playing an instrument, or worse: not even starting it. And that is why Simon's idea about a world of sports where we play games without the fear of losing is so sympathetic to me.

Wouldn't it be great to be playing instruments without the fear of losing?

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