Published on March 10th, 2014 | by Bill Perry Jr.0
The Modern-Day Musician – Part 6: Hybrid
Every artist in every medium is an amalgam of all of their respective influences, be it within the visual arts, music, literature, and various other forms of expression. The challenge is to find your own voice amidst all of these influences swarming inside your mind. The journey usually begins with having a fascination and curiosity about the arts, which is usually followed by finding ways to acquire what you need to learn about that art form, naturally and/or academically.
From here, one seeks out everything and everyone that inspires them to learn more about what they do and how they do it: how Miles Davis plays his trumpet or what inspires Salvador Dali and so on. Then the extraneous and tedious process of learning and practicing that craft for hours, days, weeks, months, and years relentlessly ensues. And after one has come to that confident place of assuredness in their abilities to express their emotions through their art, they still find themselves searching for that “one unique thing” separating their art from others in the same medium (music, art, etc), searching for their own voice.
However, it is impossible to separate yourself from your muses if you are indeed an artist. What you can do is nurture the inner workings of your own soul and search deep into your mind across the plains of the infinite to find yourself lurking on the other side of your inspirations, proclaiming your individualism.
I am a musician influenced by many forms of music. As a teenager growing up in Los Angeles in the 1980s, I was heavily influenced by the music of Afrikka Bambaataa, Run-DMC, Eric B. & Rakim, L.L. Cool J, and all the “Golden Era” rap stars of that time, which also inspired me to rap. I was also digging the music of Biggie Smalls, Tupac Shakur, Nas, Snoop Dogg (now Snoop Lion) Busta Rhymes, Eminem, and most of the 1990s and 2000s rap stars.
Sometime in the early 1990s, I began a journey to become a music composer, which led me down a path of wanting to learn more about the keyboard and how to play it better. This curiosity ultimately saw me developing a predilection for jazz piano, and my new aim was to find my “jazz piano voice.”
Considering my hip hop background, I found myself fusing these styles together in most of my compositions. I also added elements of other music forms that inspired me throughout my life, such as R&B, Soul, Funk, Blues, Reggae, Latin music (Salsa and Latin jazz in particular), Bossa Nova, Gospel, Rock (Hard Rock, Grunge, Heavy Metal, etc), Classical (Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert), and Electronica (Dance, House, Jungle, Dub Step). Sometimes I am surprised by what may inspire my next musical idea (African rhythms, Celtic music, Gregorian Chant, etc).
A true artist must allow everything that happens on this planet during their lifetime to permeate their being, and allow the energy of their spirit to recycle that force into an expression of art. And one should not pass scrutinizing judgment upon their fellow artists.
It is difficult as it is to appear “emotionally naked” among the masses, only to have your fellow artists make snide remarks about how you choose to express yourself. And who’s to say who truly is a “real artist” anyhow?
Your art is as real as you are, meaning your art’s validity is completely reliant upon what you put into it, spiritually and mentally. In this way, your success in mastering your craft will neither be measured by your prowess to obtain wealth, nor will it be predicated on a one-dimensional viewpoint that “your struggle makes you real.” Being rich and famous or being a starving artist does not attest to an artist’s realness; neither position represents the essence of your artistry.
A true testament to a real artist is honesty, no more, no less. If you are honest with yourself and your art, then you have done the public at large a great service by being genuine and not corrupted or diluted by some corporate machine that stylized your work for the sake of profit, rather than artistic merit.
Artists come in many shades and colors, and sometimes those colors cross-pollinate into a whole new breed—the hybrid. I am a hybrid musician. I am the embodiment of every song I have ever loved and learned from a variety of music genres. The essence of past sounds provided by The Divine Whole Note (The Big Bang) echo through my consciousness as I try to give it form through songs.
We are all the embodiment of our influences and should be allowed to explore those possibilities without limitations. No longer should we refrain from gathering inspiration from wherever it reveals itself, simply because it may not be coming from the things that normally inspire us.
If you are a hip hop artist and something from country music inspires your next song, use that muse! Don’t be afraid to break down barriers of conditioned perspectives, nor worry yourself about critics of your artistic vision. We have all heard the term “everyone’s a critic;” with that in mind, keep moving and creating.
Applaud any artist who dares to shatter the traditional concepts of what music is. One does not have to like a particular music style to respect it, especially if it’s honest; being a fan of someone’s art is not a prerequisite for respecting one’s work. If a music artist like Skrillex chooses to express his art through Dub Step, don’t assume he is any less of an artist because he is not playing a traditional instrument or that he’s just “pressing buttons.” His music moves millions of people, period. Believe it or not, the “corporate machine” (i.e. mainstream media) does not always dictate the musical tastes of the masses; people ultimately decide what they like.
Dare to assimilate all of your influences into one unified being, bringing about the best inside of you. In this digital age of instant information, there are many new artists to be discovered in the cyber-land known as the internet, and they are all vying for a voice to be heard on a plethora of social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc).
The range of influence for a modern day musician today is incredibly vast and diverse, and traditional pathways towards a certain styles of music are almost no longer considered (ex: Classical musicians playing Hip Hop). Musicians do not necessarily have to learn to read sheet music in order to pursue a music career, nor do they have to acquire a certain amount of fame and fortune to be heard by the masses.
Essentially, if you have a good imagination and an open mind, you can fully realize your potential as the truest of all the modern day musicians, the hybrid musician.
Bill Perry, Jr.’s website: billmysteryo.wix.com/bill-perry-jr
This article was originally printed in The Local Voice #198 (published February 20, 2014). To download a PDF of this issue, click HERE.