I recently saw a performance that was touted by posters hung up around town as being “Fearless”. Soprano Tony Arnold and pianist Jacob Greenberg (famously members of ICE) surely earned this distinction during their performance. This is perhaps something that all artists strive to be called: fearless. But what does it really mean?
A quick search of definitions finds things like “without fear” (obviously) and “bold”. Thesauruses yield results such as daring, heroic, intrepid, courageous.
For me, their fearlessness was shown in the way they ran headlong toward contemporary styles. It is all too common to see a performance of a piece by Gyorgy Ligeti or George Crumb framed in by 19th- or 18th-century works to make the performance “more accessible”. This performance made no such attempt and the effect was awe-inspiring.
There are obviously many groups these days that do not shy away from modern and (to some ears) weird music, ICE being a prominent one. But Ms. Arnold and Mr. Greenberg performed their concert as if it were the most beautiful and expressive music and indeed this music was! There was no air of apology about it and there was (more importantly) no air of novelty. The newer music was not a gimmick, it was something the performers believed in.
Those who go into the wilderness for weeks at a time are sometimes regarded as fearless. But if someone goes backpacking merely because someone will revere them, then they are gaining nothing from the experience.
To set out to be fearless for its own sake is futile. Finding passion and running towards it headfirst should be the real goal of any artist and will (hopefully) result in the distinction “fearless” as a by-product.
Tony Arnold and Jacob Greenberg did not perform a concert of contemporary music because they would somehow be regarded more highly because of it, they performed these works because they love them.
That is what being fearless means.