Here is why I think that the business world and the music don't co-exist very well. It actually relates a bit to my last post on the interrupted Mahler adagio. The modern world, which is pretty much the world of business, is interrupt-driven. You have to respond to investors, clients, partners, suppliers, employees and so on and do so in a timely fashion. The world of music, which is a time-art, requires focus. In order to do musical work, you need time and a space where you will not be interrupted. The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius gives us an example. On the website associated with his home Ainola, now a museum, we read this comment on his working environment:
Musicians of all kinds seem to seek out a secluded environment where they can work free from interruption. In the 19th century the possibilities of interruption were a lot less than they are now. But even then Wagner complained that with his rented apartment being across the street from an iron-monger he didn't see how he could finish an opera. The multitude of electronic devices we have now makes the 19th century seem like a peaceful time. In order to shield themselves from the constant interruptions of the business of music musicians like Leonard Cohen rely on management. This, of course, leaves them open to being taken advantage of by their management.Daily life at Ainola revolved in all respects around the composing and other work of Jean Sibelius. Silence was an absolute necessity for this work, upon which Sibelius often focused at his writing desk. It was only at the finishing stages that he would take his manuscript to the grand piano, and so for much of the time Ainola remained a place of great silence.Piano practice was a source of problems at Ainola. When Katarina received permission to practice for a couple of hours at home, Jean Sibelius made a special note of this in his diary. Often the girls would go to a neighbour’s home to play...
But the alternative, closely monitoring your own career and being responsive in all the ways this requires, seems problematic. Not for everyone, perhaps, but for many. I suspect that there are certain kinds of work, ones that delve deeply into certain kinds of aesthetic problems, that absolutely require isolation. The great pianist Arthur Rubenstein withdrew from concert life for several months in 1932 when he felt the need to completely rebuild his technique. As for composers, as every important new piece is, in a sense, a rebuilding, a delving down to the foundations, it may also require real isolation.
Music that is transcendent in some way, that tries to evoke the sensations of eternity (and, ironically, does this by shaping and manipulating time) is crafted in silence and tranquility. The full reception of this music may also require a silent backdrop, as, for example, the Mahler adagio that was interrupted by the iPhone alarm.
So that's why I think many musicians have trouble with the business world: their most important work, the music itself, often requires that they separate themselves from the usual interactions of daily life in order to focus completely on the music. But business requires instant responsiveness and communication. The two worlds are really at odds with one another.
Here is whole of the 2nd Symphony of Sibelius. Imagine, if you will, the kind of concentration it took to assemble this composition: