A Short History of the Musician's Workload

Image(c)Jesper Deleuran

Musician's workload through the ages: 

8th century: chanting, some praying, gardening, and studying religious texts. Church covers expenses. 

Around 11th century: some monk decides it'd be good to remember the tunes. Singing and solfége. Practicing is born. Church still good for money. 

Renaissance (15th c): church thinks the people should also know the tunes. Musical notation and the sing-along are born. Courts and posh folk want live music too, and lessons for their daughters. Love songs become very popular. Many instruments are invented. Workload: singing, practicing, composing, teaching, dealing with people who can't sing, performing, developing fine motor skills. Church and rich folk pay the bills. 

Baroque (17th c): birth of the bassline. Polyphony goes all out. Some flashy Italian dude thinks music is missing costumes and more drama, the opera is born. Some of the better guys get a solo - the concerto is born. Bach comes up with some mean fugues. Workload: performing, practicing Bach, studying frickin' counterpoint, composing, improvising, ear training, ornamentation, still teaching, orchestration, instrumentation, dealing with audiences who clap between movements, dealing with the librettist, dealing with the soprano, dealing with press critiques. Church pays if it likes it, rich folk pay, audiences begin to pay, but not much. 

Classical period (18th c): Mozart is born, becomes the poster child for prodigies and their ambitious parents everywhere. Austria's souvenir future is secured. Everything is more lighthearted. Musicians get clever, convince everyone they should hire a big orchestra and a choir. Haydn uses the drummer and a fortissimo to wake up the audience. Workload: practicing Bach, practicing Mozart, practicing orchestra parts, still getting the hang of counterpoint, still teaching, now also touring, scheduling rehearsals, reminding everyone to bring music stands and pencils, fighting with the librettist, fighting with the soprano, fighting with the first violins, telling the choir to keep quiet during rehearsals, remembering to call the piano tuner, dealing with feelings of inadequacy, getting past censorship, dealing with more angry press, learning to accept that audiences will clap between movements. Money: Church always calls the same dude, but you can play in his ensemble on Sunday. King still likes you though. Increase in paying audiences. Pawn shop is a lifesaver. 

Romantic period (19th c): music becomes unbelievably difficult. Paganini is born, fucks violinists' lives till the end of time. Bigger and louder is decidedly better. Musicians convince theatres to book the 80 piece orchestra, and a choir, and a brass fanfare. And we want a horse on stage. And it will all last 5 hours. And of course the conductor's fee is 10 times that of everyone else. Waltzes become popular. Chopin, the first emo, plays sensitive and romantic stuff on the piano. Women drag their husbands to the ballet. Workload: practicing Bach, practicing Mozart, practicing Paganini, practicing orchestra scores, why is counterpoint so hard?!, performing, touring, asking authors for story rights, ignoring the librettist, ignoring the soprano, ignoring the first violins; take a 5 day trip to the next city, make love to four women, drink excessively, enjoy the scenery, write beautiful string quartet about the experience, get diagnosed with syphilis; more composing, scheduling rehearsals, reminding theatre manager to print posters, attending receptions after the gig, reminding yourself the critics don't matter, dealing with feelings of inadequacy, hiring choreographer, convincing theatres not to cut production budget. Money: some rich dude likes my stuff. Emperor not so much anymore. Church from time to time. Audiences wanted their money back. Inheritance should be good for a while. 

20th c: things get weird. And funky. Time for experimentation: with tonality, rhythm, form, and narcotics. Musicians can pick a genre now. Popular music becomes...well, popular. English speaking folk take the blues and use it for jazz and rock'n'roll. Radio is born. And the recording studio. And record labels with bad record deals. Music becomes a business. Musicians discover gadgets. And flamboyant clothing. Classical music's last generation of listeners is born in this century. Workload: practicing Bach, Mozart and Paganini cuz tradition, studying counterpoint cuz music education, learning modes cuz Miles Davis, getting gear, maintaining gear, putting band together, finding manager, getting record deal, getting lawyer to fix record deal, touring, rebelling against the system, performing, performing with a hangover, performing while on hallucigenic drugs, interviews, press conferences, merchandise, still teaching, firing the sound guy, finding new sound guy, finding studio, recording, telling guitarist to be quiet during rehearsal, finding a genre, finding band image, writing tunes, writing lyrics, deciding on album artwork,composing intellectually demanding stuff, playing uncle's wedding. Money: scholarships, sponsors, record labels, royalties, paying audiences, merchandise, record sales, theatres/venues, grants. 

21st c: some dudes put all the music on the internet for free. Everyone has a computer and a label and calls themselves a producer. Festivals suffer budget cuts. Theatres suffer budget cuts. Orchestras suffer budget cuts. Records don't sell. Record deal hard to get. Radio still plays the old stuff. Rolling Stones still going strong. Workload: practicing some Bach, a little Mozart, fuck Paganini, fuck counterpoint; composing, writing songs, writing lyrics, trying to save classical music, trying to save jazz, trying to save rock'n'roll, trying to save pop music, scheduling rehearsals, performing sober, touring, booking flights for band, fighting with airline about carry-on restrictions, buying gear, maintaining gear, updating software, asking for funding, asking for gigs, sending a lot of emails, dealing with rejection, dealing with feelings of inadequacy, playing for tourists, playing for schools, playing for anyone who will fucking listen, teaching if the students show up, filming a professionally produced promotional video, recording demos, recording albums, recording the live gig, filming the live gig, being the video guy, being the sound guy, being the roadie, managing the website, managing facebook account, managing twitter account, managing instagram account, managing youtube channel, designing flyers and posters, printing flyers and posters, distributing flyers and posters, interviews, merchandise, laughing at promoters' jokes, giving away cds to close family and friends, going to night school for a degree in nursing, playing uncle's second wedding. Money: who needs a house anyway? Church pays 50 bucks for the Christmas mass.


**originally posted to Facebook on 19.01.2017

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