I keep coming back time after time to this matter because PURPOSE is incredibly important as the starting point of any endeavor, and I've always felt there is tension between the two activities mentioned in the title, a tension that nobody else seems to notice or care much about.
I do because music is the big frickin' thing for me, I stand in that crossroads and cannot settle for a generic answer.
What do I mean by tension, you ask? Well, on one hand, for me, music is, or it can be in its highest moments, one of the most elevated things that a human being can experience on this planet.
On the other hand, however, I've been to plenty of concerts by now, and not everything that happens in those realms could be what someone would call "elevated"; on the contrary, some of the things that are prone to happen in those events, and some human specimens you find there, are base and with a filthy taste that is very connatural to them.
So we have two things that are opposite, and at the same time strongly connected, joined at the hip. Therefore, the tension.
It isn't either an intro-extrovert kind of thing, a la "the intro loves the detail of the records but gets exhausted by the massive, sweaty concerts". The exchange of energy that happens in certain concerts, with moments of actual communion, are nothing to be scoffed at (one personal favorite of mine: a band playing in the open, with the set starting as the sun goes down, so the music takes you into the night... One of the best ways I know to remind yourself you're alive).
Then what is it? I don't know for sure, maybe there's not a clearcut answer, but I found some clues in a book written only 25 centuries ago.
To my surprise and delight, Aristotle's Politics dedicates a huge chunk of the book's final section to the question of whether children should be taught music or not. He concludes that they must, but under certain conditions; he considers that music is the only art that resembles emotions (a melody can be sparse, passionate...), so its teaching can be useful to help people learn domain of the self, restraint...
When describing leisure, he distinguishes three possible finalities for it: relaxation, virtue ("benefiting leisure", so to speak), and recreation, and he considers that music has benefits in all three areas.
However, and here's the limitation, he warns that "paid musicians" are "often vulgar", because they don't practice music with an aim of elevation and self knowledge, but wanting to entertain a crowd, even at the price of resorting to the most servile resources, if the occasion requires it. Therefore, he concludes, young people must be taught music only to the extent to which they are capable to appreciate by themselves the merit of a good performance in others...
There it is again, the tension between sublime and vulgar, perfectly described by a guy who has been a speck of dust for the latest 2500 years -I guess that's why they call them classics-.
How do you deal with such contradiction? I'll have to resubscribe to my previous post; each musically inclined individual will have to find and draw his/her own private line on a different place. As for myself, the jury is still out; by now I know that I am not very big on vulgar (although I have my moments, like every one) and that I'd really like to be some day that guy up there on the stage, summoning the night for all the folks. I'd really like that, but not at any price...
I have a guitar and I'm gonna use it