Cast of millions

There’s a nice quote by Jeff Tweedy (leader of the band Wilco) in Lessig’s column in last month’s Wired:

“Music,” he explained, “is different” from other intellectual property. Not Karl Marx different – this isn’t latent communism. But neither is it just “a piece of plastic or a loaf of bread.” The artist controls just part of the music-making process; the audience adds the rest. Fans’ imagination makes it real. Their participation makes it live. “We are just troubadours,” Tweedy told me. “The audience is our collaborator. We should be encouraging their collaboration, not treating them like thieves.”

It’s similar to something I’ve been mulling over for a while now about art in general. Art isn’t created out of nothing. It’s inspired by culture, augmented by technology, given its own voice by the audience, advertised by word of mouth and filtered by fans. The artist steers these forces, but they’re created by a cast of millions.

Why do we credit the violinist and the composer of a piece but not the master luthier who made the violin? Did his artistry contribute any less to the beauty of the music?