Friday, October 30, 2015

Relative Competence

I was sitting down with my recording engineer the other day fixing a pizzicato note in one of my songs that didn't quite come out and the thought occurred to me that what constitutes "competence" in music is rather different than in some other fields. This note was one of hundreds and hundreds that the guitar plays in the piece. All of those hundreds of notes, except this one and another, was played in the right place with the right emphasis, was well-phrased and had good tone. So the error rate was around 1% maybe. This, or better, is what is expected of every classical performer. Sure, every performance has little flaws, but 99% or better is the standard for classical musicians.

Now compare this with the standard for, oh, say, stockbrokers--you know the folks you give all your savings to, hoping they will invest it for you and fund your retirement? In order to become a stockbroker you have to pass an exam. On that exam you have to get 60% right to pass. So your stockbroker, the guy whose competence you trust, might have gotten 40% of the questions wrong on the exam. Think about that for a minute.

And don't get me started on journalists and people in the media. As far as I can tell, apart from smug, self-righteous bias, they have no competence.

Now let's hear a couple of nicely competent musicians:

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