Every musician has a voice. It can be a journey that all of us go through to find that individual voice. Some musicians don't find it, some musicians do, and some are still developing it. I've been through all these stages in my music career. It can be one of the most frustrating journeys, and sometimes feel like a dead end or may impact your choice to discontinue your music career. Is my voice worth something? Are people listening to my voice? Should I even bother anymore? It can be quite scary.
This all sounds very obnoxious and selfish, but I believe an individual voice and identity is important to musicians and to people in general. It defines who we are and our purpose in our lives and communities. Without it there is no point in waking up or doing something in our everyday lives. I guess, it's difficult for musicians to find a unique voice. Instruments may sound the same, music start to sound similar, and people start seeking a 'position' to fill rather than a 'voice'. In this industry, we start to become products, and the only thing motivating us is the audience, fans and self-satisfaction in what we do. The people give credibility to our voices, and gives us a sense of empowerment to make change through our art. Without feedback, we wouldn't know why we're here in the first place.
I remember the moment when I chose music as a career path, and started taking it seriously. I was performing with my high school percussion ensemble in front of a crowd of thousands, and millions if you counted the audience watching the televised performance. After the performance we got a standing ovation and a roaring cheer from the crowd. I remember standing there thinking, 'Wow, music has such an impact. Something so simple and short can move so many people. Something I loved was loved by others. If this is what it feels like to be a musician, then I want to pursue it. I want to make a change with my music, and continue doing what I love doing.' It was this moment that I felt I had a voice in music, and it meant something.
However, as I became more experienced I began to see the reality of the music industry. To have a voice, meant to have a product. To be labelled as a product kind of feels empty inside, and acts as another number and object in the world. It's because of this reason that I started questioning my voice, and whether its authentic or just another product. You would think an improvised voice in jazz or free improvisation was unique, but the sound is automatically stereotyped to a genre and style. Eventually, you're heard as another voice within that music community - another product.
I started questioning this through my experience with my jazz ensemble. At first, starting jazz felt like having a completely individual and unique voice. Compared to interpreting written classical works, I was arranging my own tunes and improvising with my own voice. I started exploring music further than traditional jazz, only to realise that some people in the audience just want to hear the good old jazz standard. I started viewing my ensemble, at first a free platform to explore and express, now becoming a product of entertainment. I was lost, and uncertain about my purpose in music. I didn't know what my voice was anymore. Was music like this the whole time, and I was just oblivious to it? It couldn't be, because why are all these musicians here in the first place? So what does it take to have a voice?
I started reflecting on all my experiences that I've had. I realised that a voice is having a meaning behind it. When you say something, it's a means of expression, a statement, or something from the heart and mind. It needs to have intention behind it to have presence, and that could mean the voice of a product or means of money making - and that's absolutely okay. As long as it has meaning, then the audience will believe it and so will you. If it doesn't, then what's the point playing music in the first place. For me, I like performing music with a story or idea behind it. My honours graduating recital was themed around the idea of 'Caged Wings', which is my personal story as a musician slowly freeing myself from constraints. For the first time, I also composed a piece for it. It was an incredible experience, and I felt like my voice meant something and people were listening too. Here are the recordings from my recital, which were recorded and mixed by Daniel Kassulke.
I think only recently did I discover that having a voice as a musician, doesn't mean it has to be through peformance. There are so many people out there who have a voice in the music industry through other professions, such as sound engineering, curatoring, managing, producing, directing, editing, educating and so on. They all express their voice and ideas through music, and you don't have to be a performer to do so. Recently, I started a podcast called Musicians Unmuted, and the episodes feature musicians and other professions in the Brisbane music scene to discuss topics and various issues in their lives. It was created by Maya Luski and myself, and recently we were joined by Daniel Kassulke as well. We're all passionate about podcasts and the Brisbane music scene, and we absolutely love our job! It's a non-profit project with so much potential, and we can't wait to see it grow into something amazing for you all to enjoy! Listen to our recent episodes below.
Most importantly, I believe your voice as a person is what's important. The voice, heart and mind is what drives the art, so you need to find yourself first to know what kind of voice you want. I think it's inevitable that life surrounding you will affect your voice, but as long as you stay true to it then it won't lose authenticity. I believe the musician's voice is always changing, because the world is constantly changing. The journey is never ending, and that's the exciting part about it. Every now and then you'll make an impact, and someone listening will take that and make their own impact - the world goes round and round. A voice can do so much, but I guess it doesn't matter unless an ear is nearby to hear it.
Laugh, Love, Live finding your voice!
This blog is a space to share my thoughts, past, present and future moments in my life. Feel free to leave a comment, like the blog or share it! - Anna