Soren Kierkegaard was a philosopher who wrote in pseudonyms galore: approximately thirteen in his expansive output, not including what he penned under his own name.
Behind these pseudonyms was a drive to bring back the individual in a world which he thought was destroying it. In a journal entry from 1847, Kierkegaard writes that “…truth is related essentially to personality and can only be communicated by an I to an I. As soon as the communication here becomes objective, the truth has become untruth”.
Pen names were a way to combat this problem: “…by bringing poetized personalities who say ‘I’ into the centre of life’s actuality (my pseudonyms), I have done what I can to accustom contemporaries once more to hear an ‘I’, a personal ‘I’ speak”.
When we think of musicians, most are recognized through illustrious pseudonyms. We direct our energy towards that person. Every nuance of the music is David Bowie’s, Bob Dylan’s, or Sting’s. Composers also take on individuation. Beethoven, Brahms, Bach: they all are deemed responsible for what their work has or will amount to.
The problem with this is when others become absorbed into an individual. David Bowie had numerous collaborators but it is ‘David Bowie’ that is solely on the cover. Individuals also melt into the single entity of bands and symphonies. Think of audiences too. A crowd can seem like a nameless mass devoid of individuation. On the internet, people listening to one’s music amount to a number of hits.
All these issues aside, let us not forget what is at the heart of music: one person makes a sound and another listens to the sound.
In larger groups, each person makes a sound that contributes to the bigger sound. Without one person, be that the electric bassist or the second violin, that bigger sound would not be possible. If an individual is not there to listen to said music, the sharing capacity is gone and so is an enormous part of the experience.
At the heart of music, for performer and listener alike, is an ‘I’ to ‘I’ experience. As we wade in the anonymity of today’s world, we cannot forget music’s power to make each person who partakes in it matter greatly.