Musician: Identity or Behaviour?

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The definition of a ‘Musician’ according to Google is 'a person who plays a musical instrument, especially as a profession, or is musically talented’. Though this is true, this definition addresses the activity a musician does, or the skill he possesses, and not the identity itself. An activity or a behaviour (according to Neuro-linguistic Programming), is the action one takes to perform a task. An identity, would be how the person associates with their own self.

In today’s age of 'DIY Musician', a musician - apart from playing one or more instruments - could take on the task of a lyricist, songwriter, composer, arranger, producer. And some even take upon the technical and business aspect of their music to become the recording and mixing engineer, booking agent, market analyst, blogger, among other tasks. Anyone with a smartphone/laptop, a decent DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), a little knowledge in music and good internet connection can learn to record, edit, produce, promote and market themselves as musicians. And not just the music, the entire process of releasing one’s auditory masterpiece can be done creatively with the shedload of services available online. For instance, as a musician, being nothing but a songwriter, would give you only a limited set of resources to put your personality out into the world. Taking ownership of each step - producing, managing or marketing - you could become a lot more creative about what you want to share, with whom you want to share and how you want to share. But that’s a lot of activities to do…or does that mean a lot of roles to play?

As someone who gets deeply involved with making music and teaching music, I have enjoyed the process of creating music, recording it, producing it and even publishing it. At every stage I had the option to do what was needed, or to take on the identity of that particular role and make decisions from that perspective. I will avow, taking on the identity gave me multitudinous choices and with choices, the potential avenues for creativity did mount up.

One might wonder, how does taking on an identity make any difference in the way a task is dealt with?

We all take on multiple roles in our lives. Roles at work with our peers, bosses, subordinates. Roles at home with our parents, siblings, gardener. Roles at social circles with our close friends, not so close friends, newly-met acquaintances. For some of us, all these roles are just a set of behaviours. We have guiding rules that define what’s right and wrong for each of the behaviour, and we go ahead and do what has to be done. For the rest of us, we take on each role as an identity. We become the role we play, and we live, experience, improvise and learn from the aspects of playing that role.

Is thinking in identity better than thinking just in behaviours?

Taking on the identity of a role gives us a lot of creative freedom to do what we want to do and how we would like to do it. Musicians who perform in front of large audiences around the world know how to tap into different states by accessing their identity with every song they perform. Let’s explore. Consider saying the following statements out loud: I am a confident person; I feel confident. Notice how both these statements kindle different emotional states?

While watching a musician or a band perform, as an intuitive audience, we can experience whether the musician truly believes in what they are performing, or if they are just playing their instrument.

Music - being a musician or playing music - is only an example. As you read this, I invite you to think of the most important activity you do everyday, and ask yourself, “Do I know who I am when I do the most important activity of my day?”

If your answer is yes, feel free to comment (below) how easy you think it is to improvise performing your activity.

And, if your answer is no, why don’t you spend a few moments and think of who you are while you do your most important activity of the day, and share the contradistinction you discovered.

To conclude, with all due respect, let us begin to identify our identity in everything we do, rather than inflexibly operate activities and behaviours apportioned to us.

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