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Artist Awareness

By Kole

It is commonly perceived and accepted that Artists, Musicians in this case, are on a different level or plane of self expression than that of the common man. It may be true that Artists are on a different path of self expression, especially considering that people are not all on the same path in life, nor do they follow the same path of self expression. However, that does not mean that the common man’s plane is inferior to that of the Artist. In fact, people’s natural instinct to express themselves is on the exact same level.

The difference, though, between an Artist and a common man is the awareness, understanding, and passion to travel this path. Everyone, Artist or not, desires to express themselves in some way. Whether it be musically, through the martial arts, or even in the business world; there is always that burning desire to express one’s individuality. However, it is also understood that not all Artists understand or are aware of these self reliant truths. The answers that all artists are seeking can only be found when one asks and explores questions of artist-like truth, within themselves. When this happens, a new explosion of understanding, creativity, and confidence releases itself from the bonds of the unconscious mind.

German Professor of Philosophy, Eugen Herrigel, reaffirms this belief, something I find personally applicable, in his statement that “If one really wishes to be a master of an art, technical knowledge of it is not enough. One has to transcend technique so that the art becomes an ‘artless art’ growing out of the Unconscious.”

With that said, I believe that technique is a great tool for expressing oneself. I also believe that the music or art that one creates correlates directly to what the Artist has studied, played, and taken in over the years. This helps to explain why those who study a certain artist in depth and for a long period of time start to replicate the sounds that are commonly thought of as that musician’s ‘style’.

My goal with this article is to help you understand what you must do, as an artist or person who wishes to expand their mind and understand the art of expressing yourself to transcend technique and form the ‘artless art’. The experiences and questions I have asked myself so that I could move closer to the self expressive truth serve as my qualifications on the subject, as well the content of my past articles and the technical and theoretical knowledge I possess regarding this elusive topic.

Based on the audience, namely guitarists like myself, I assume that we have common ground and thus can relate. I believe there are too many articles addressing more ‘relevant’ issues and many lacking in subjects like this, leading me to take on the difficult task of trying to define and explain this subject.

The only thing I ask is for the reader to possess ‘The Beginners Mind.’ Try to look past the words at the meaning and what I am trying to convey.


Artists wish to create something that is truly self-expressive and original, delving into uncharted territories or perhaps just rearranging something we have all heard a million times. There are a lot of people out there that proclaim the death of originality, without knowing the real definition of the word. My mentor, guitar virtuoso Tom Hess, explained it to me thus: Originality contains the word Origin in it. Whether you believe that you are the origin of new music or that you are simply picking out pre-existing musical ideas; does not matter. This is because Originality does not mean something new to the world that previously was not in existence, instead it means something (art/music in this case) growing out of the origin; which is yourself! So if someone ever tells you that the world is lacking originality, turn to them and proclaim him/her the most original person on earth; for they were the origin of that false phrase ‘The world is lacking originality.’

All musicians at one point in the time of the composition process ‘hear the music in their head’. Some people can ‘hear’ the entire score and need only to play and record it or notate it on staff paper. Others only hear the melody or harmony; and then with time begin to form the rest of the piece on their instrument or in their mind. This is one of many aspects of everyone’s unique music/self expression. However, this is only a superficial layer to the deeper truth.

We, as artists, are conscious of these things and think of them often, because they are some common questions that other artists ask themselves or have asked of them by someone else. However, to get to the root of all originality and self expression we must delve even deeper than these previous superficial questions/layers. We must go beyond the surface of consciously making and knowing music and dig to the roots of the vastly unexplored, forgotten, and unconscious mind to make ourselves aware of things we would have normally never thought about.

More than just accepting that you created this melody you hear in your head and then running with it to create a song, sit down and think to yourself how this melody came about. Perhaps it is a compilation of melodies from other songs you have heard a million times, or just a new technical etude you were practicing a few days ago. Once you have discovered this, explore even deeper and try to understand how this came about. By thinking of things like this you are bringing that which was previously in your unconscious mind to your consciousness.

Surely, you have created this new melody and brought its existence into your conscious mind. However, if your sources of inspiration already existed in the current world, what makes you think that this particular melody did not already exist in your unconscious mind? And only when your conscious mind was ready, did it accept this new melody into it for growth and development. Now, if this is so, doesn’t that also mean that for this melody there could also be an existing harmony or counter melody in your unconscious, just waiting to be accepted? Just because it has not come to your conscious mind yet, does not mean it doesn’t exist. Think about these questions for a few minutes, than continue to read.

Do not mistake what I have just said as a negation to the idea of originality or self expression. Whether you believe that the music is created from and by you or that you are the intermediary who simply picks the pieces of the puzzle and puts them together, is of no importance. However, the depth, exploration, and conscious thought of such matters will bring you closer to the self expressive truth. I know that when I first consciously thought about what was and could happen in the unconscious, it opened my mind and changed my way of viewing art and my music specifically. The labels, small discrepancies, and clichés of all music seemed like a past that no longer needed to be visited. These things limited my way of thinking and composing for a long time. Surely, many of us have asked ourselves questions about labels or clichés. For example a labeled ‘Metal Musician’ may write a ballad, however he is worried about releasing or even recording it because of being labeled a “sellout” or being mauled by criticisms from his fans. Do you see how this is limiting?

My ultimate goal in the “Artist Awareness” articles is to open your mind to a new way of thinking and teach you how to learn from yourself. In my next article I will be explaining the subject of Artist Awareness in even more depth; as I recall a story from my own past that deals with the composition process and mindset I had while writing one of my most current songs. Thanks for reading and always remember to keep ‘The Beginners Mind.’

Website: http://www.KoleMusician.com
Contact: Kole@KoleMusician.com

Copyright 2006 Kole (Kyle Hicks). All rights reserved.


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