Introduction What is Narcissism? Identifying Narcissism Narcissism and Soul The Origin of Narcissism The Mythology of Narcissism
Why Bother About Narcissism?
I have learnt about narcissism early in life, in my twenties, at first in the 1970s through some of the books of Sigmund Freund and Wilhelm Reich and later, more thoroughly, through the books of Alice Miller and Alexander Lowen, back in the 1980s.
— See, for example, Alexander Lowen, Narcissism: Denial of the True Self (1983) and Alice Miller, The Drama of the Gifted Child: In Search for the True Self (1996) as well as Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Society’s Betrayal of the Child (1998).
Both psychiatrists are since long years specialized on narcissism and it was through their unwavering efforts that today the seriousness of the narcissistic affliction has been recognized in mainstream psychiatry. This was namely not the case when they started out to publish on this matter, back in the 1970s. To be true, at that time, narcissism was as good as overlooked in psychiatry, and was not held to be a serious affliction.
Today, while health care professionals recognize the seriousness of narcissism as a psychiatric disorder, the general public remains in a state of confusion and misinformation about the very term and the nature of the narcissistic affliction that I have hardly seen for any other psychiatric problem.
It is often wrongly assumed that narcissism means to overly love oneself!
If that was so, there would not be a problem at all with narcissism. But narcissism is the very contrary of love of oneself, it is the very denial of love of oneself — and that makes that it’s a problem.
What is Narcissism?
The Overall Behavior Pattern
Perhaps it was a chance that I never bothered too much about the term itself, as it is confusing and misleads many people. There is about no other subject where the clash between professional knowledge and the half-knowledge of lay persons is so large as with narcissism. Everybody seems to know what narcissism means, but when you inquire further, you see that people maintain the strangest misconceptions about it.
Most people have heard about the ancient myth of Narcissus that is at the origin of the term narcissism. But what does this myth tell us? Here is where the misconceptions start. Most people somehow got a scarce idea and extrapolate from the little knowledge they got, and the result is a standard answer like: — Oh yes, this strange guy who looked in the water and saw his mirror! That guy loved himself too much, he was fallen in love with himself …
And then they go concluding narcissism was a hang-up of people who ‘love themselves too much,’ who are fixated upon their own self-image, who are fallen in love with themselves. — These people just love only themselves, they have no reception antennas for other people, they are selfish and even their erotic love is turned toward their own person, instead of being turned toward others.
Needless to say that all of this is sheer nonsense. The very contrary is true.
Narcissism is a pathology where the person, through deep hurt suffered early in life, is unable to love himself or herself, and thus lacks even a basic level of self-love. And what is worse with this affliction is that the true self of the person, their self identity, their feeling self, their Me idea, and also their body image, have been buried deep down in the unconscious. The result is that narcissistic people do not know who they are or, as it is expressed in psychiatry, they deny their true self.
This denial of their own intrinsic being, their character, their values and oddities, their depth and dignity is what lets them appear like shadow dancers. They are generally fluent talkers and take up new ideas quickly, but they do not integrate novelty, because there is nothing they could integrate it into, as they are out of touch with their true identity, the fertile soil of their human nature, their grounding.
I use to call them for this reason narcissistic comedians, as they actually behave as if being on stage, as if life was a huge stage where everybody performs a role — but where nobody plays the role of himself or herself, but always another. A plays B, B plays C, C plays A. But life normally is that A plays A, B plays B and C plays C.
People who suffer from narcissism tend to appear aloof, they appear to float, as if their feet never touched the ground beneath. There is often also something PeterPan-like about them, something fragile and strangely youthful, often accompanied by a sunshine smile that seems to suggest that they know no sadness. While in truth, they are the saddest people on earth, only that they can’t even feel their sadness, alienated as they are from their feelings, because they have repressed their deepest emotions.
In exchanges with narcissists I also found that they often deny the reality of emotions, trying to grasp all of reality with their pure intellect — that usually works brilliantly well. But that makes that they are truly alienated from humanity because they more or less consciously discard the irrational out of the world. For them, all must be rational, clear and straight, and they tend to condemn irrationality in people, out of touch as they are with their own irrationality.
We humans are at times rational and at times irrational. We are as good as never only rational or only irrational; we are a mix of many qualities and oddities, and it’s our vivid emotions that bring the necessary kaleidoscopic change in our lives so that we are not for too long rational and not for too long irrational. But for the narcissist there has to be only rationality, and all the rest is as it were human weakness …
And as they judge as weakness what is most individual and original in others, they fatally remain themselves with that weakness and cannot realize their divine potential.
The natives would say that these people have lost their soul.
Play Yourself? Are Yourself?
You can identify rather quickly if you suffer from a narcissistic fixation or not. Simply check if you play yourself in your life, or if you are yourself.
Check if you play a role that fakes it is you. Then, when you ask this question and it rings like ‘But who is myself?’ you are getting on the right track. When that question feels odd and strange because somehow you have never asked who you are, and if in the game of life you as good as never play the Me-card, then you know you have a problem with narcissism.
Another reality check would be the obsessional idea to be altruistic and ‘always good’ to others, to a point of self-forgetfulness.
Rings true? Why the hell should you forget about yourself? You feel it’s a ‘moral duty’ to be always concerned about others, while putting yourself behind? No, it’s not. But you probably have a hangup with narcissism, as you are constantly denying your own self, replacing the vacuum at need with person A, friend B or relative C that you have to help out, to save from bad luck, rape or incest, to heal, to comfort, to look after, to console, to protect, and so on.
Narcissism is really not a complicated thing and it’s not difficult to grasp. It has been made difficult to understand through popular psychology that loves to use strange terms and abhors to express simple things in a simple way. For example, it’s much more difficult to explain what neurosis is or psychosis than to say what narcissism means and what makes persons afflicted with narcissism suffer so much in life. They really suffer!
Narcissism is not a party affliction, not a gentleman disease, and not an outflow of vanity, while it is often belittled as such. Narcissism is an affliction serious enough to be put on priority by most of today’s psychiatric services.
For when you’re out of touch with yourself and your deepest emotions, you live a life that is not yours, you live an ‘empty life.’ This inner vacuum, this emptiness when it’s constant, is something that can trigger other serious afflictions such as substance abuse, chain smoking, depression, chronic fatigue, alcoholism, anxiety, phobias, and sexual obsessions, aggression and perversion.
It also can trigger somatizations, which means that the body gets ill for reasons that are not physiological, but psychological.
Narcissism and Soul
What an Expert Says
Another corner of the literature on narcissism is what spiritual-minded people say about it. Their terminology is different, and that unfortunately also contributes to the general confusion about narcissism. I have in mind a particularly successful and brilliant author, Thomas Moore, whose most famous bestselling book, Care of the Soul (1994), is not a psychiatric manual for healing narcissism. It is a philosophical study for understanding the roots of narcissism as a lack of soul both in our culture and individually, in our lives.
But the problem is one of terminology. Moore speaks of soul and of lacking soul when he describes narcissism. His ideas are brilliant, and he points the finger on the wound when he says that narcissism cannot be healed through pushing the person into a growth cycle or by otherwise suggesting the person ‘to grow up.’ I am going to republish here the part of my review of his book that is concerned with narcissism.
Narcissism has no soul. In narcissism we take away the soul’s substance, its weight and importance, and reduce it to an echo of our own thoughts. There is no such thing as the soul. We say. It is only the brain going through its electrical and chemical changes. Or it is only behavior. Or it is only memory and conditioning. In our social narcissism, we also dismiss the soul as irrelevant. We can prepare a city or national budget, but leave the needs of the soul untended. Narcissism will not give its power to anything as nymphlike as the soul./58–59
I have coached narcissistic and highly problematic individuals over the Internet, free of charge, for a period of more than ten years, considering this as the ‘social’ part of my mission as a coach, and I found invariably that they wait for society to accept them, instead of doing the first step and accept themselves! Moore explains:
What the narcissist does not understand is that the self-acceptance he craves can’t be forced or manufactured. It has to be discovered, in a place more introverted than the usual haunts of the narcissist. There has to be some inner questioning, and maybe even confusion./60–61
And I made an astonishing discovery. I had myself a narcissism problem over many years, starting in my childhood, and it was not cured with a hypnotherapy, but I could cure it subsequently, virtually by ‘talking to the trees.’ It was only a few years ago when, living in the Provence, I took the habit to go for night walks, when I would address speech to some of the trees in a huge alley with sycamores.
There were three huge sycamores I felt spontaneously attracted to, and what I would do, late enough so that no cars would pass by, was to put my right hand firmly against the trunk of the tree, and talk to the tree, either by thinking or by whispering my ideas.
Now, what happened to my surprise was that not only was I greatly energized through this unique kind of conversation, to a point to not being tired when coming home, but also to have dreams where the tree was talking back to me. And I learnt amazing depths of wisdom from these dreams!
Now, I was of course very surprised when I found the following passage in Care of the Soul (1994):
I suspect that this is a very concrete part of curing narcissism — talking to the trees. By engaging the so-called ‘inanimate’ world in dialogue, we are acknowledging its soul. Not all consciousness is human. That in itself is a narcissistic belief./61.
And indeed, through my talking to the trees, I felt a sudden interest in shamanism and went on a spiritual quest that took me several years.
I engaged in a tedious research about shamanism and went to Ecuador, in 2004, to drink the traditional sacred Ayahuasca brew. I left this initiation completely transformed. I have regained the whole range of magical beliefs I fostered as a child, and this really has completely healed the narcissistic condition.
Now, Thomas Moore has put a particular stress in this book on the danger of collective narcissism and he investigates deeply in the culture of the United States of America, to identify it as a narcissistic culture par excellence. Moore writes:
Nations, as well as individuals, can go through this initiation. America has a great longing to be the New World of opportunity and a moral beacon for the world. It longs to fulfill these narcissistic images of itself. At the same time it is painful to realize the distance between the reality and that image. America’s narcissism is strong. It is paraded before the world. If we were to put the nation on the couch, we might discover that narcissism is its most obvious symptom. And yet that narcissism holds the promise that this all-important myth can find its way into life. In other words, America’s narcissism is its refined puer spirit of genuine new vision. The trick is to find a way to that water of transformation where hard self-absorption turns into loving dialogue with the world./62.
When we look at how present-day America, with its strongly narcissistic government, faces this ‘loving dialogue,’ we see that the puer spirit is indeed very strong. Not only is it strong but Americans somehow like to choose their presidents among puer personalities, and that may one day result in a fatal outcome! Mature cultures choose mature leaders, senior personalities, people who have grown out from the cradle or from an adolescence where Peter Pan is the dominating archetype.
And it is very interesting that Moore also notes that curing narcissism involves an expansion of boundaries:
Narcissus becomes able to love himself only when he learns to love that self as an object. He now has a view of himself as someone else. This is not ego loving ego; this is ego loving the soul, loving a face the soul presents. We might say that the cure for narcissism is to move from love of self, which always has a hint of narcissism in it, to love of one’s deep soul. Or, to put it another way, narcissism breaking up invites us to expand the boundaries of who we think we are./63
And here again, when we look at present-day reality in the United States, boundary-dissolving substances, from DMT, over LSD to Marijuana have all been declared illegal, which thus shows the degree of narcissism at the top government level in the enlightened nation. Only that the light seems to come from the wrong source.
And the enlightened nation is an action nation. All is action. The major coach-actor of the nation performs in shorts, jumping around like a school boy. When all is action, everybody is an actor. Not himself. And everybody acts out his or her life, instead of living it. This timelessness of the nation, in the sense of ‘never having time,’ which is embodied in its business values, business standing for busyness, is one of the symptoms of its cultural narcissism that is not a present-day phenomenon. The action-nation was born in New England. When there is no more time, there is no more soul. Moore explains:
A neurotic narcissism won’t allow the time needed to stop, reflect, and see the many emotions, memories, wishes, fantasies, desires, and fears that make up the materials of the soul. As a result, the narcissistic person becomes fixed on a single idea of who he is, and other possibilities are automatically rejected./67
Peter Pan resisted to grow up. And astonishingly enough, Thomas Moore writes that growing-up is not a cure for narcissism, in the contrary:
But the solution of narcissism is not growing up. On the contrary, the solution to narcissism is to give the myth as much realization as possible, to the point where a tiny bud appears indicating the flowering of personality through its narcissism. (…) Narcissism is a condition in which a person does not love himself. This failure in love comes through as its opposite because the person tries so hard to find self-acceptance. The complex reveals itself in the all-too-obvious effort and exaggeration. It’s clear to all around that narcissism’s love is shallow. We know instinctively that someone who talks about himself all the time must not have a very strong sense of self. To the individual caught up in this myth, the failure to find self-love is felt as a kind of masochism, and, whenever masochism comes into play, a sadistic element is not far behind. The two attitudes are polar elements in a split power archetype./71
When we apply this truth to the Peter Pan nation, we learn that we have to let them run where they run and let them break even more glass everywhere in the world, right?
But our daily news about the hero culture really seem to suggest that Moore’s analysis of collective narcissism, that is shared by number of depth psychologists, would lead to an abysmal accumulation of Peter-Pan like acts, performed as a nation-narcissist on the world at large, in order to gain depth.
I am not so sure if this psychological solution will work out politically, because even the most optimistic of Peter Pans around in the great nation may get a hint of stretching the bow too much … and the international repercussions may not permit Peter Pan to continue his puer game infinitely.
Anyway, from the soul perspective, and leaving political realities untouched, Thomas Moore writes:
The secret of healing narcissism is not to heal it at all, but to listen to it. (…) I am stuff. I am made up of things and qualities, and in loving these things I love myself./73
This is in accordance with a general soul-based healing approach that was the prevalent approach to healing during the Middle-Ages and the Renaissance. Moore writes:
Robert Burton in his massive self-help book of the seventeenth century The Anatomy of Melancholy, says there is only one cure for the melancholic sickness of love: enter into it with abandon. Some authors today argue that romantic love is such an illusion that we need to distrust it and keep our wits about us so that we are not led astray. But warnings like this betray a distrust of the soul./81
The Origin of Narcissism
Sketch of an Etiology
In order to realize our personal identity and become whole human beings, we have to be able, still in childhood, to form an original personal identity. This is however impossible if we are reared by narcissistic parents, those namely that are indifferent to the unique person of the child they have brought to life.
Narcissistic education is one of indoctrination going together with gradually alienating children from their bodies. The most effective way to indoctrinate children with a certain culture is to implant in their mind a deeply rooted doubt about who they are. This doubt which creates a vacuum will then be filled with magic formulas such as Be not what you are!
The next step is to force the child to play roles in order to please their parents. The main role in this drama which is the Drama of the Gifted Child, as Alice Miller called it, is the role of the child as father or mother of their own parents.
However, there are few researchers who see that the main etiology for narcissism is to be found in our child rearing paradigm.
Those who did, such as Alice Miller or Alexander Lowen, were not representing mainstream psychology, despite the brilliance of their work.
They found, inter alia, that education that typically leads to narcissism is rich in inventing and executing magic formulas that are given to the child for so-called ‘good education’ but that are in reality perverting hypnotic injunctions.
Hypnotic Injunctions Recognized by TA
These injunctions have been found by TA as highly destructive for the child’s emotional, cognitive, motor, skill and sexual development. They are voiced often non-verbally, through implication, through examples given, through confused and imprecise language, through reproaches and through comparisons that may or not be true. — Be adaptable and flexible until self-alienation; — Never be yourself in front of your parents; — Be not child-like, but adult-like; — Be mature in immaturity; — Understand what your parents don’t understand; — Be logical and uncomplicated; — Respect your parents while disrespecting yourself; — Mistrust your intuition; — Follow authority without questioning.
I see another etiology of narcissism in lacking primary symbiosis between mother and infant during the first 18 months after birth.
Regularly, with mothers who themselves suffer from narcissism, clinical research found a reduction or total absence of eye contact between mother and child, absence of breast-feeding or when the breast is given, the mother feels revulsion, disgust or aggression toward the child; in addition, such mothers tend to be hostile to the child’s first steps into autonomy, thereby creating in the child a pathological clinging-behavior that has very nasty consequences later on in the development of the child and young adult.
Often what happens in such relationships is that the mother manipulates the child into a real codependence where she projects her longings for love, that remain unfulfilled in the partner relation, upon the child. This then in many cases leads to emotional abuse, and on the level of the child, a perversion of their psychosexual orientation into gerontophilia.
Narcissism thus is often the inevitable result of emotional abuse suffered in early childhood, and that fact may help to understand the gravity of the affliction of narcissism.
What this results in is that the person unconsciously later tries to heal the lacking primary fusion by repeated pseudo-symbiotic relationships, which are relationships where love is replaced by dependency or confused with dependency. However, since those persons that are invested with that role of ersatz mothers and fathers can never give the lacking primary fusion, disappointment and depression will invariably ensue in those relations.
Narcissism is an inevitable by-product of patriarchy, and its etiology is wrong relating. Wrong relating to self. Wrong relating to others. It is built on what Joseph Campbell called the ‘solar worldview’ and ignores the many shadows of the soul — and thereby ignores its own shadow.
Narcissists, therefore, are tragic figures. They are tragic in the sense that they run into the abyss without the slightest idea of what they are doing because they are not grounded and have their feet in the air, like the Fool of the Tarot. They are lunatics, because they have not integrated their own Luna, their Moon energy. They are the eternal Peter Pans of sunshine movies, and present themselves to the public smiling, broadly smiling, most of the time, but in haphazard moments you see their true face — while they themselves ignore it.
The Mythology of Narcissism
Creating vs. Performing
We have seen that narcissism can be both an individual affliction and a cultural phenomenon, and has become increasingly ‘cultural’ or ‘collective’ with the birth of the consumer paradigm and mass production, automated fabrication and streamlined standard education that stresses the need for unprivileged access to consumption.
In this last section of this article, I would like to discuss an area of cultural narcissism that is not yet discovered by the psychiatric, nor even the popular psychology literature, perhaps because it is more subtle and less obvious a fact of life in postmodern consumer society.
I am talking about the bias between creating and performing.
To anticipate the outcome of my analysis, I am saying that creating is not what our society rewards and encourages, but performing. Not the creator is any longer the hero, but the performer, not the originator but the imitator, not the creative artist but the recreative artist.
Why? Because what is the order of the day is not assimilation of culture, nor cultural advancement, but mere recreation, which is more properly called entertainment. What is entertainment? A form of distraction, not contemplation, and thereby a way of of dissipating energy instead of accumulating energy.
I will try in this last part of my article to give some flesh to this idea, and also, to illustrate it with some real-life examples.
Let me first try to explain the perhaps historical roots of what in classical music is called the ‘performance paradigm.’
It all started at the times of Mozart and Beethoven, and especially Chopin and Liszt, when not, as before, the pianists played their own works, but became mere virtuosos who played, as it is today, compositions they would not be able to compose in the first place.
The change came slowly and gradually, perhaps at around the time of Josef Hofmann (1876–1957), who set in motion a totally new paradigm.
It was from that time no more the composer who plays his works, and a few others in between, but the pianist virtuoso, who played ‘a repertoire,’ a choice of music, and where he or she rather often used to ‘adapt’ the piece to their own stretch of hands, or would bluntly rewrite a part of the score for ‘better pleasing the public.’ It was common from about that time that pianists wore special clothes and displayed distinct mannerisms to attract the attention of the public, if they were not outright piano acrobats.
With the performer paradigm replacing the creator paradigm, the whole musical world changed, and the ultimate results we see today as a result must sadden the true music lover.
At the same time, the tendency set in that the performance aspects of a composition were validated higher than the composition itself. For example, it was very common at that time to play a nonlegato ostinato passage in a sonata or fantasy in octaves, thereby duplicating the notes to play, but at the same time, reinforcing the sound. It was rather seldom questioned if so doing was actually justified by the composer’s intention?
Here is a good example of this vision of musical performance of that time, by an eminent virtuoso of that time, Ignaz Moscheles (1794–1880), himself a contemporary of Meyerbeer, Hummel, Kalkbrenner, Cramer, Herz and Weber, who all inscribed into that early virtuoso tradition.
Harold C. Schonberg reports in his book The Great Pianists (1963/1987) that Moscheles once wrote in 1838, when pondering the new music:
I play the new music of the four modern heroes, Thalberg, Chopin, Henselt and Liszt, and find their chief effects lie in passages requiring a large grasp and stretch of finger, such as the peculiar build of their hands enables them to execute. I grasp less, but then I am not of a grasping school. With all my admiration for Beethoven, I cannot forget Mozart, Cramer and Hummel. Have they not written much that is noble, with which I have been familiar from early years? Just now the new manner finds more favor, and I endeavor to pursue the middle course between the two schools, by never shrinking from any difficulty, never despising the new effects, and withal retaining the best elements of the old traditions.
— Harold Schonberg, The Great Pianists (1963/1987), p. 122.
Moscheles believed that music had reached its Golden Age during the period Bach to Beethoven, and was suspicious of the virtuoso performance paradigm as it was shown exemplarily by Chopin, Wagner, Liszt, Busoni, Godowsky and Berlioz.
Interestingly enough, one of the greatest exponents of the virtuoso paradigm, Franz Liszt (1811–1886), whose real Hungarian name was Franz Ritter von Liszt-Ferenc, was himself not a virtuoso in the sense that he was tastelessly modifying compositions not his own, to fit them to his own gusto. It was long unknown to what point Liszt was actually in this respect a man of the 20th century, who deeply respected the original score and intention of the composer, a fact that was mainly brought to our knowledge by one of the greatest Liszt interprets ever on this globe, the late Chilean pianist and nobleman Claudio Arrau (1903–1991).
Arrau said in several interviews with Chilean television that Liszt was a person very much ahead of his time and that his musical understanding was flawless; and against the myth of Liszt as a ruthless acrobatic piano executioner, who pays little attention to the score, Arrau forwarded the subtle image of Liszt as a person who was meticulous in his intention to reproduce the original vision of the composer in its finest details. While Liszt, in accordance with the Romantic tradition, was often transcribing music not originally composed for the piano, he even then tried to follow the composer’s intention up into the finest details.
Now, the performance paradigm is what came upon us through this 18th and 19th century musical tradition, and we see its effects today aggrandized in many ways. For example, the flow of information to handle gets larger with every day, just for actually using all the wonderful features technology offers us in this modern culture.
What strikes our consciousness these days is the question how people are going to handle this immense, undaunted information flow without actually turning mad, by a total breakdown of the nervous system?
The results are that the culture is going to change at a level even more drastic than we can imagine these days. Children grow up with computers they can touch while they have lost touch with their peers and parents; touch becomes widely part of the tech culture, and is unrooted from nature where it was primal first, and for very precise reasons.
The lack of time phenomenon as a cultural obsession takes hold of people’s intimate lives where with men, it turns the spiral toward large-scale impotence, as shown by newest sex research in Germany, because of the conception of sex as performance, to fit it in the performance culture — while sex originally had nothing to do with performing something. But that is how all our basic life functions get molded into the corporate culture for being validated under the consumer paradigm.
What can possibly be the future of the classical music, or acoustic music performance paradigm?
I see a dim picture here as young people excel on their synthesizers and keyboards they can use even in the night, with headphones, and can plug into their laptops and iPhones, transmitting their creations directly over the Web.
Pianos are especially bulky and the pianist needs a heavy investment for a piano and the money to pay for a high-class apartment or single house, because the ‘noise’ disturbs others. (I was thrown out of the apartment of my mother, had to defend a court action and lost it, when I was 22 years old, which added on to my brilliantly eloquent ‘classical music trauma’).
Prices for music sold drop for classical, and constantly so, and rise for rock and pop, and some popular jazz, and even for new age when the artist is popular.
So what is the future of the classical arts? As the music management has largely assigned the classical scene to the bourgeoisie of old style, as this bourgeoisie is currently going to be replaced by a high-tech, and efficiency-prone New Elite composed of very IT-literate men and women, I see black for the classical scene of old style, with its expensive operas and concert halls.
The international handphone technology demonstrates that modern strategies of business deployment may simply bypass any of the older systems, invalidating the former ways of doing in a matter of years.
While still about a decade and a half ago the German government invested millions of euro to put all the phone line system to copper lining, which is very expensive, in Asia or Africa, such expenses have never been made. All there is simply wireless, while the quality is of course lousy but nobody complains about it, because they don’t know any better. So, that means, when you apply that to our culture, that the development of all of it will be nonlinear, and not following the traditional ways of doing things.
I see a dim future for the soul values of classical music because all will be transited toward ‘narcissistic’ performance with the virtuoso as the prime laureate, leaving the composer in the shadow. Young pianists today may do all of their promotion, using Youtube, their own web sites, iTunes and whatever and yet the audience is constantly shrinking.
Still in the times of my own youth, some forty years ago, it was the older generation who was interested in classical. I was among my peers the only one who liked classical music!
Today, this old generation is basically all dead, and that means the audience is shifting greatly.
The young people also if ever they want to hear a classical will not pay for it but watch it on free video channels such as Youtube, which means they are using second hand resources because they ignore the power of a first-hand life, as I call it.
The whole culture will shift toward second-hand productions where the originality of an artist is lesser and lesser a factor that people want to consider.
All this means that pianists today tend to diversify their repertoire in order to be prepared and ready to strike, the day when they see a certain type of music getting popular, and then specialize in it.
But, of course, the narcissism paradigm is not exclusive to classical music, but also an intrinsic part of the Jazz culture, where it’s stringently more the performer who is validated, applauded and lauded, than the composition itself. Actually the composition has hardly any value by itself which is metaphorically very well demonstrated by the fact that Jazz compositions habitually figure in so-called fake books as simple musical lines that are annotated with a code language, similar to the basso continuo known in baroque, that indicates the harmonization. It is then up to the skill of the Jazz musician to ‘write out’ this code according to valid principles of musical composition.
I find the wordplay immensely suggestive, for what is content of a ‘fake book’ is after all fake, when considered in plain English. So that would mean that the composition, in total alignment with the narcissistic consumer culture, has no more value, and hence, the composer has no more value, but solely the performer, because it’s the latter that was declared as the cultural hero, because ‘performing is better than composing.’