There is nothing that we seek more than happiness. According to Aristotle,
we find happiness in three different types: one that derives from material
pleasure, another from glory, and the third one from virtue. For the Greek
philosopher, the first level of happiness, derived from material, sexual, and
gastronomic pleasures, differs very little from a kind of happiness that
animals may also enjoy. On the second level, happiness depends on recognition
by others. Finally, the superior level of happiness is that of the man who acts
virtuously and asks no more.
So, what is virtue? And, reflecting on my recent trip to Venezuela, I ask myself, what makes a musician a virtuoso?
As with happiness, virtue also takes different forms. The answer that I found in Venezuela was a reminder of what I believe is essential in music. Firstly, in Venezuela, music is not an object; it is an act. Music is not a noun; it is a verb. Secondly, music becomes a relevant action only when it is shared.
Yes, this sounds a bit obvious, and surely these elements may be found outside Venezuela. However, these are not the qualities that traditionally define virtuosos. Traditionally, virtuoso musicians are identified as musicians with superb technical skills. As a result, the classical music culture reinforces the worship of individualism.
On our second day of our trip, we decided to visit one of the newest nucleos of the state of Lara, in a small town called Tamaca. Crossing through the front gate of an old shabby house, I was attracted by the sound of a vocal ensemble. They were singing Palestrina. Before each piece, the leader of the group gave the first pitch of each voice using a Cuatro (a typical instrument of Venezuelan "llanera" music). There was no difference between performance and rehearsal, or between audience and musicians. The "rehearsal" became a "performance" in seconds. The musicians' happiness was shared and asked no more!
Speaking of virtue, I haven't met any ensemble more virtuous than this one!
Sistema Fellow '13