Combat the Copy Cat Anxiety

There can be a guilt that presides over tackling a well worn out genre or style. I’ll ask myself: “Many people have done this before and better. What do I have to add to this pile of generalities?” A creative pang of pain penetrates my person. I’m just a copy cat. I’ll just end up like some tragic Don Quixote figure, playing an outdated music to an unimpressed audience and not even making a musical dent in the world.

But you know there’s something about digging into the familiar. JS Bach was considered an oddity during his time, working in an early Baroque style which was fading out of practice to the late Baroque. Yet we look to him not only as the pinnacle of Baroque music in general but as the pinnacle of music period. This is the same person who could be and was considered an outdated oddity during his time.

Paraguayan guitarist and composer Agustin Barrios was a Romantic born too late. He composed and performed during the early 20th century. Being musically isolated in Paraguay and faintly aware of musical modernism, he wrote music in a 19th century Romantic style which reflected his Paraguayan roots. Barrios’ work is considered at the pinnacle of not just Romantic guitar rep (in the 20th century mind you!) but of all guitar music. All from a guitar strapped Paraguayan Don Quixote.

These two examples challenge the anxiety of being a copy cat, of not producing anything original and worthwhile. Bach and Barrios used familiar material to create original and worthwhile music. Sure we’ve heard music in the early Baroque style, but not music in the early Baroque style through Bach’s lens.

Sure we’ve heard music before. But you know what? We haven’t heard music through your lens. No matter what it is, I think your lens is worth seeing through.

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