You only get to live one time - once - that's it. When you are 90 years old and looking back, will you wish you had played it safe, towed the line, conformed to everyone else, and marched in step with the rest of humanity? Or will you look back and be thankful you lived life as YOU, venturing into unexplored regions, following your instinct, enjoying your individualism, setting the new standard vs. following one, making history vs. studying history, etc.?
Albert Einstein said, "He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice."
Lets focus this train of thought towards the creation of music. Ask yourself how much of what you practice, play, and strive for is a target which has been set by others, a road map laid out by culture that directs you into proper and acceptable musical destinations? Ask yourself how much of what you practice, play, and strive for is an adventure, a quest, and exploration of the lost continent of creativity just waiting to be discovered by some adventurer crazy enough to leave the confines of safety and venture out into unknown regions?
Its tricky - trickier than you think. From a thousand feet up many non-conformists have their uniforms and lifestyles dictated by the culture of "non-conformity" to which they are drawn. The same holds true in music. The first punk rock band was touching something new. The one thousandth punk rock band was "non-conforming" to a pattern which had been well established by a culture and in doing so was actually conforming to a mold which dictated sound, looks, and lifestyle.
Yes, we must all learn the language spoken by our people in order to communicate. But it is what we say with that language that differentiates us from parrots. Yes, we must learn the notes and chords and such to create music, but it's what we do with those notes and chords which separates the typists from the authors.
I want to encourage you to look at the true musical DNA that is within you and follow the trail that will lead to the ultimate fulfillment of that music maturing into an awesome and unique addition to the sounds that compete for ears on this planet. You can dress like a punk rocker and sound like a punk rocker and be just as much a conformist as the corporate accountant wearing a three piece suit. Dare to be really different, for in that path lies your life and your music. There is a lot of music history waiting to be made. Someone is going to do it different - come up with a new style of guitar playing, or even a new genre of music. Is it you?
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet, knowing how way leads to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by.
And that has made all the difference.
Click on photo to enlarge
The photo above was taken in Hamburg in 1936, during the celebrations for the launch of a ship. In the crowed, one person refuses to raise his arm to give the Nazi salute. The man was August Landmesser. He had already been in trouble with the authorities, having been sentenced to two years hard labour for marrying a Jewish woman. We know little else about August Landmesser.