Duets or "Why You Are a Better Musician Than Me"

Some years ago, Piers Anthony (of Xanth fame) wrote a book called Split Infinity. It was an alright sci-fi/fantasy novel about a futuristic society where major political/economic decisions are made by playing various competitive games. One of the more interesting examples of the game in the first book was when the protagonist ended up in a violin contest against a maestro-level musician.

Each musician played the same piece and was judged by a human audience and a computer analysis. Obviously, the maestro was graded better by the computer, but the protagonist was rated higher by the human listeners because he knew how to work the crowd and give a better performance.

The maestro asked him about this, and he explained how he was able to use body language, etc. to be a more engaging performer. The tie-breaker round was a duet, where the judging criteria were not disclosed. The maestro applied his new-found skills to perform better while still playing substantially better than the protagonist.

Then the protagonist was revealed to have won the duet round.

This was because the criteria was that a group performance is about making the overall song better, not about showing off yourself. The protagonist helped the maestro sound really good instead of focusing on being great himself, which resulted in a better overall performance; thus, he contributed the most to the duet.

I’ve forgotten most of the rest of the book, but that scene has really stuck with me. This is one of the things I really like about having guest musicians of various stripes join the Regdar and the Fighters sets. By having great musicians join us on stage, they make the overall Regdar performance much better than just Regdar and I can do on our own.

Interestingly enough, I almost never back up other bands as a guest musician myself. This, I think, indicates that I’m not a great musician myself. For that I apologize. I guess that means we’ll all just have to settle for Regdar and the Fighters, featuring better musicians than Regdar and the Fighters and hope that turns out for the best!

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