Master or what?
This post originally appeared on the ‘fiddlefish.com’ blog. It’s here for archival purposes only.
Comedian Bill Hicks, one of my favorite performers, once noted that artists can be monopolies in that they control the supply of their craft, and consequently, they control the demand. As a violinist, this always keeps me grounded and reminds me to be myself out there. As I mull over violin making more and more, I have come to realize that makers and players share a lot of commonalities and consequently this principle of monopoly-artist applies to the maker’s trade, as well.
I always hear how Strads are the best and nothing beats them. But then you get down and dirty and start being objective and Del Gesu’s name comes up. Then Amati. Then Vuillaume. Then Nemessanyi, etc. All of a sudden, the pool of talent is a bloated party and Antonio Stradivari is just one among many.
Can excellence really be a pure monopoly and does Strad deserve the laurels of True Master? I say no. Similarly, the same can be said for the annointed True Master violinist, Jascha Heifetz. I feel when closely examined, excellence is not binary in any sense, and in the end, in the arts especially, our individual preference for style and aesthetic leads us to our personal True Master. True Master in the arts, is every single artist. And beyond that, it’s a popularity contest.