Or Enlightened Self Interest?
Music at its very best is God without religionComposing is a truly magical process and in the hands of a great composer is capable of bringing about changes in consciousness like nothing else can. A musical score, like all of life, is interconnected through time as well as space; a powerful metaphor for our own lives: For each of us is a story with a silence at either end. Because though a musical creation exists as a complete indivisible whole, it can only be experienced as it unfolds, note by note.
When my father was dying, it was the music of Mahler and Samuel Barber who did more for him than the expensive and largely useless cancer drugs he had been taking. In the summer of 2010 the band met the wife of a terribly wounded young soldier at one of our performances to which she had brought him. She told us that music did more to aid her husband's mental recovery than anything else.
I believe that patronage of the arts is still a civic duty just as it always used to be when the world was richer for it. I am not ashamed or embarrassed to seek financial support for the band on this basis, however old fashioned this idea is currently seen to be. If content becomes entirely free, it also is in danger of becoming worthless - no more than ubiquitous noise posing as art. Those who so readily give money to Help For Heroes and cancer charities need to take this type of message on board.
BEST FEEL GOOD DRUG IN THE COSMOS
Generosity is the most enlightened form of self interest, because it implies self sacrifice - self discipline and an imagination for the position of others. The way to be happy: to get everything you need and most of what you want is to be generous.
Generosity is like a candle to a moth - It shines like a beacon in the dark - It brings out the best in us all - It is the best feel-good drug in the cosmos - It opens the way to self discovery and the secrets of immortality.
We live in extraordinary times and it is going to be the most imaginative - the craziest - the most courageous - who will show us the way ahead. That's generosity. To live forever, is to be a great military genius like Alexander, a prophet like Moses or a fantastic artist like Beethoven.
Immortality is all about what we leave behind us - our gifts to posterity - for beyond the doors of Heaven's Gate is oblivion. . . . . isn't it? I no longer think so but just like all of you, I will have to wait and see. No one can “know” for sure whatever they may tell themselves (and others).
FOR THE SAKE OF US ALL
The ultimate contribution to the human story by the greatest composers and artists is often overlooked, undervalued or unappreciated during their lifetimes. The reasons are not important. What is important is this:
If there had been no one around at the time willing to commission works of art and provide the means, there would be little or none of the likes of Mozart who died a pauper or Bach whose music lay unrecognised for 150 years. Neither would there have been any Wagner without the support of Prince Ludwig: And without Wagner there would have been nothing from the less gifted but nevertheless great composer, Edward Elgar.
In a world devoid of these gigantic geniuses, there would be no giants on whose shoulders the more slender talents of others could stand.
THE X FACTOR
Materialism and consumption have not brought us the happiness promised. Instead the pursuit of these types of goal has not only led to X Factor and the general dumbing down of quality across the entertainment industry in a destructive and short sighted quest for profit for profit's sake, it has also led to a generalised hatred of western values coming at us from across the wider world.
PURCHASING A SLICE OF IMMORTALITY
If the object of spending is to “feel good”, then spending on the arts and supporting the endeavours of the world's gifted creators is an answer. To purchase a slice of immortality; to help create something that will outlast all that is naff.
The arts can have lasting value and enrich our humanity immensely. Music occupies a special place, because at its best, it communicates on entirely emotional and spiritual levels transcending the purely mental.
A composer with something to say, a story to tell can help us as individuals to see our short little lives as having eternal worth in the context of the cosmos as a whole.