I try not to write these blogs in order to get a reader’s attention or to impress him/her. At the same time, I don’t write as if I had no readers whatsoever. This is a tricky thing. It’s tricky because it requires balance and it requires prepaid respect to whoever my potential readers might be. Our relationship as you read this is delicate, I always believe that you could immediately sense if I’m being honest, or not. That’s how I imagine it. I might be wrong, but I found this attitude to work well for me.

Whether I’m writing, performing, or composing music, I always think of my audience as having great perceptual capabilities. This puts me in a responsible state of mind. I’ll tell you a little secret: the general outlook from a musician’s perspective is that the audience knows NOTHING, and that it’s very easy to impress them with some fancy tricks. The second part of that statement holds true, it’s easy to impress anyone with tricks. But, the first part of that statement is more dangerous for the musician than it is for the audience: if you think most of your listeners can’t feel what’s going on, you’ll write/perform music for people who can’t feel what’s going on. That misses the goal behind any honest artistic expression, which it is to bring people’s consciousness together, to have to them feel less isolated and divided.

I don’t know why performers and audiences have been divided. There are so many trends that separate the performer from the audience today. The COVID-19 music videos, where musicians are essentially playing for their phone cameras and audiences are watching through a piece of expensive plastic between their fingertips are the recent peak of this phenomenon. But these are not really harmful, just a temporary (hopefully) necessary evil for the time. However, the intensive investment artists put into making a “name” for themselves, and protecting that name does a lot of harm to the fragile connection between them and the audience reacting to their art. We reached a point where artists write their own biographies (in third person) and chase after journalists and media outlets to promote their persona…

When I was asked to write my own biography in Music Entrepreneurship class in Holland, I felt so weird writing the opening line: “Makram Aboul Hosn is a Jazz bassist who has performed with…” everybody writes their own biographies, and they have to sound impressive. I don’t know if anyone else sees the danger in this. The second I write about myself in third person, I am no longer being genuine. I have completely shifted my frame of reference and created a divide within myself; you can forget all about honest expression when you are divided. As a teenager I thought all these short bio’s I read came from honest writers following the artist around and then doing the writing. But, it was then uncomfortably revealed that the artist or their agents decided what they want written, based on what sells, and either do it themselves, or just pay a journalist to do it.

I think the world these days thirsts for honesty and truth. Everything around us is deviated and the truth is always masked or manipulated. So much is the case that people now feel very uncomfortable around the truth and prefer to listen to the same old lies. But there is something about an honest expression that just cuts through all that web of confusions: You could tell someone “you look great today” and just really mean it from your open heart without expecting them to say anything in return and you’ll absolutely make them feel great. But, if you do it with a hidden intention, they will know, they will sense it even if they cannot verbalise it… they won’t shut you down, they might even cooperate with you and smile, but your comment just won’t hit that real place inside them.

The same way you could tell someone “I think you are harming yourself and those around you” in honest gentle expression, then they might actually listen and try to change. But, try to do this with a self-righteous “I know the truth and you don’t” attitude and watch how high up their defenses go and how they will hold their ground in defiance: you just did something counterproductive… We all fall for it, the arrogance of knowledge. It’s all so difficult, this maintenance of balance. It’s a constant process of adjusting. I think that’s what people call happiness, when they achieve that balance. Then they’re frustrated when they lose it, because the happiness goes away with it.

But, balance is a constant process of adjusting, never inertia… Just like driving a car on mountain road: we are always doing so many micro-adjustments on the gas, brakes, and steering wheel. We are reacting to what the road offers. The problems begin when we go on auto-pilot and stop reacting to the road and who is on it, even if we come out unharmed and manage to drive through it. The problems begin when you don’t care for your audience, who are all around you, anyone at any moment could be the receiver of your expressions. That’s why responsibility and awareness is key. And if you fail in being responsible and aware for a minute or two, then you can always adjust!