Musical Entertainers Vs. Musical Scientists


While it is true that, “not all things should be measured,” let us turn our attention to the distinction between Musical Entertainers and Musical Scientists. 

In one group, we have Andrew WK, David Lee Roth, and Gwar, to name a few polarizing examples. These are humans who dress up in costumes and jump around on a stage, attracting attention to their appearance. They engage the audience with their amusing antics. Most rock bands are more tame versions of this category, with varying levels of subtlety. Every performance group from Paramore to My Chemical Romance to Katy Perry is a variation of this same idea. In an instant, the listener can hum along and tap his / her foot, and much of the focus is on the personality and appearance of the performer. The music is a cheap jingle to advertise for the obnoxious dancing, which is only another superficial jingle to decorate and disguise the exchange of Wealth.

In the second group, we have master craftsmen like Morgan Agren, Marco Minnemann, and Virgil Donati. (Is it a coincidence that these are all drummers? The answer is no, as we shall see in the next paragraph.) These are advanced musicians who dedicate themselves to discovering new musical ideas and performing at a level that most non-musicians are unable to comprehend. As with other sciences, their discipline is not focused on serving an audience. The majority of their time is well-spent on the puzzling and creative world of their musical imaginations — finding new tricks, new combinations of sounds, and new ways to perform challenging patterns. Should other scientists be seduced to “dumb themselves down” for the sake of earning a living on stage? Or should they be free to study high-level theories and seek esoteric knowledge? How important is invention?

Not important enough, these days. 

An easy way to determine whether a particular individual is a Musical Entertainer or a Musical Scientist is to ask yourself, “Is the person standing up or sitting down while playing?” Perhaps if all musicians were permitted to sit down as rock drummers and classical musicians are, the science of music would advance exponentially.

Dr. Zoltan understands the internet almost as well as Seth Godin does. Visit to be made into a really smart human.

7 thoughts on “Musical Entertainers Vs. Musical Scientists

  1. If you are stating that a musician/performer must fall under one catagory according to the parameters you set, I disagree. What catagory do you think someone like Steve Vai falls under? He is a superb performer and yet I admire his ability to think outside the box. He pushes the musical envelope and still entertains at his live performances.

    Although I agree with the basic ideas you are conveying, but I don’t think it’s a black or white issue.

  2. Do you smell the fresh air entering the room? I’ve never been able to put such a fine point on it, but it’s the very attitude you describe in the article regarding the first group of people that has bothered me so. Neil Peart was bemoaning such a thing about 25-30 years ago when he observed that there was a “lowest common denominator” mentality that was fueled by all of the mooks who are trying to cash in on music, rather than advance anything artistically. It’s like Zappa said, people treat music like they treat wallpaper, or the kinds of magazines they leave on the coffee table. It’s there to reinforce the image they have of themselves.

    Regarding the first comment, Steve Vai is more the exception than the rule as guitarists go, and there’s less irony in having him up front than in having guys like Minneman, Bozzio, Agren and Donati sit in the back and pretend that the only thing they bring to the table musically is “a good beat people can dance to”.

  3. Pure entertainers live in 1 dimension (personality) while scientists many times are in the other two (talent and creativity). Three dimensional artists, who also could be called entertaining scientists, are quite rare.

  4. What’s the last thing a drummer says before he’s fired? Hey guys, why don’t we try one of my songs? This has been the case almost the entire length of my 27 years playing drums so I decided to try a solo thing. This has resulted in almost everyone ignoring what I do because “There’s no melody” Add to that,I grew up on KISS in the late 70’s, so my DNA was infused with the desire to succeed in “Category #2”. I have been un-successful in combining both categories but I am progressing. Thanks to Dr. O for giving me a shot in the arm so that I may persevere

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