Storytellers and Musicians

In discussing storytellers, Walter Benjamin puts them into two categories: the resident tiller of the soil and the trading seaman. The prior tells stories whose origins rest close by: local legends and stories about the origins of the town for instance. The latter has brought stories from afar: legends from the Orient and fables from Nordic peoples. Both of these are equally sound modes of storytelling for Benjamin.

Musicians in a sense take up both the resident tiller and the trading seaman in a variety of ways. For one musicians build on their local scenes while expanding to far off places with tours. Influentially speaking, musicians work within local tradition and style while also taking influence from “distant” styles. In another, spreading one’s music locally through word of mouth is married with the immediacy of the Internet, the ultimate port for which distant lands are brought together.

While being both tiller and seaman, there is a constant balancing act taking place for musicians.

It is interesting to note, however, that Benjamin quips further about how the trading seaman ultimately settles down, becoming the resident tiller.


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