[Disclaimer: Meandering abounds below…]
Many of my posts here are relatively evergreen — just because I write or post about something doesn’t mean that the topic is date-specific. For example, my “New Listen” reviews are, for the most part, only new to me (and sometimes I’ll sneak in an older one) and not new releases, and other topics are often recurring thoughts or experiences of mine that are finally hitting the digital paper. Of course, there are the more time-stamped entries, such as concert reviews (e.g., Liebman, Gustavsen, EOTB, Wagner), those meant to coincide with certain dates, be it birthdays (e.g., Wagner, Carlin, Sax, Verdi), concerts (e.g., Mitchell, James, my own), album releases (e.g., Mitchell & Harris), and more.
This evergreen approach wasn’t necessarily intentional at the start of this blog six years ago, but I eventually became mindful of it. The hope is that the majority of the 200+ posts here could be browsed and still be relevant in some fashion today and in the future.
There are other times, though, in which I feel like many of these paths at least overlap if not converge and compound, at least more than usual. Now – including the last several months’ goings-on and much of the last year’s posts – is one of those times. Some themes are related; others just occur near simultaneously. I’ll try to address many of them, though not in too specific an order.
1. 2015 has thus far been a wild ride. Admittedly, part of the reason it seems as if some of these topics have converged is because many of the last several months have blurred together. I regularly catch myself in conversation referencing “the other day” only to realize it was actually several months ago. Obviously, the biggest change this year has been becoming a parent. As I wrote in that post, H’s arrival not only logistically changed things – e.g., scheduling – but caused a complete realignment of priorities — in a good way, if you ask me. (I’ll stick to just his first initial. He’ll have plenty of opportunities to start his public digital trail elsewhere later. Besides, “H.” is also one of my favorite TOOL songs.)
I intentionally kept my schedule pretty clear the first half+ of this year in anticipation of his arrival. Consequently, 2015 has in many ways been my musically “lightest” year in quite some time. I’ve performed much less, recorded very little, and turned down requests and offers for various gigs. (Oddly enough, the blog has maintained some and even occasionally surged, but it helps that I can do that while at home in the middle of the night.) That said, 2015 also included one of my favorite performances ever: Borghi | Teager at Muskegon’s The Block. And other noteworthy gigs have occurred and will occur this year. So while the quantity is down the quality is up. But regarding my diminished frequency of gigs, there’s only so much time in a day. Between family and work and devoting what little time is left over to my own primary projects, time is at a premium, and leaving the house with my horns requires both a temporal opening and a monetary price. Hence the first big intersection: fatherhood, work, and competing “interests.”
2. As I wrote here, I work. (Gasp!) And given my overall flexible schedule, I watch our son during the day and work in the evening after my wife gets home from working. And while I’m not teaching adjunct this semester – the first in a long while; the measly pay wasn’t worth all that time – I’m just replacing one secondary job with another. It’s cliché, but I can confidently say that parenting is the most difficult “job” I’ve ever undertaken — most everything else is a cakewalk in comparison. Of course, I still have these weird conversations with people, often other arts-related folk, who assume that I’m “just a stay-at-home dad” (i.e., unemployed save for gigs), changing diapers, practicing, and just enjoying a leisurely life with reckless abandon. Having a taste of it, I can confidently say that stay-at-home parenting is as demanding as any taxable full-time employment. Second, I still do the latter.
With not teaching abroad this past summer nor teaching adjunct this semester, I’m somewhat off the academic grid. (Teaching private lessons is a separate matter.) It’s probably part of why I’m so temporally fuzzy, rarely immediately aware of what month it is. Along with that, the weird and often condescending exchanges regarding my “selling out” (“losing out”?) and being somewhat outside of the academy continue, despite my working towards next year’s study abroad already. Inevitably the conversation turns into something like the following:
Them: “Are you teaching this semester (with the baby)? Is your son in daycare?”
Me: “I’m not teaching this semester. I watch H during the day and work in the evening and at night for my FT job.”
Them: “Oh, that’s too bad. [Enter bizarre or pitying comment here.]”
And variations on some of those bracketed statements include:
• “That’s great. You can just hang out with your son all day.”
• “You poor dear. Don’t you miss teaching?” [If I reply that it’s not worth the time/money, they sometimes ask what I’ll do for work, willfully ignoring the fact that I already said I’m working.]
• “That’s great that your wife has a ‘real job.’ When do you practice?” [Though nauseating — and surprisingly not embarrassing for the questioner — this is often the type of response from another musician/artist. The “real job” remark is code for You shouldn’t be worried about a salary as an artist, but marry someone who does and isn’t.]
3. With fatherhood taking a top priority, I can safely say that I’ve felt it placed in the cold crossfire of competitive self-interest. Who knew that phenomenon would start to take non-musical pursuits into account? Although, I guess a zero-sum mentality doesn’t care what “the other” is so long as it exists. So if I am less available or have a conflict with one project because of a child instead of another musical project, it’s a nuisance or obstacle just the same. To be fair, I thankfully have not experienced this across the board, but it’s definitely reared its ugly head. (Though, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. I heard tale of a shedding of friends and acquaintances once you have a kid. And while I eschew personal non-musical details on this blog, I can anecdotally attest to that being true.) Granted, I admittedly don’t have the time I once had, but this is noticeably beyond that alone.
4. The more time passes, the more I’m convinced that “community” is little more than a buzzword. It sounds good, but I rarely see it in practice. This goes beyond the (SCENE) debacle, though that proved to be an illuminating real-world case study of balkanized local “scenes” and interests. However, I will say that I attended a wonderful potentially community-building event (and eventual series) a couple months ago: the Contemporary Music Potluck. I have no doubt that that particular series will do wonderful things.
5. On a related note, one’s “community” or scene certainly affects and is affected by money. Just recently we had a highly contentious Arts Commission meeting in which we discussed, debated, and ultimately distributed the City of East Lansing’s annual cultural grants. I was part of that discussion, so I can’t sit here and write only as an analyst. I won’t get into the so-called vexatious minutiae here (thank you, Dr. Campbell, for coining that phrase in my counterpoint classes), but suffice it to say that one of the larger fault lines fell between those who wanted to weight more funding towards newer and/or smaller events and organizations and those who wanted to give a large bulk of the money to the bigger long-running mainstays that continually receive financing. Or, if you’d rather, populist funding vs. establishment funding. Mathematically, the smaller organizations would’ve received a smaller portion of the grant funds than the larger applicants no matter what. The disagreement were about the degree to which these would be funded. As is typically the case, money begets money. So if you’re a startup and don’t have a long track record of raking in the dough or plans to take over the world, why come to the table hat in hand?
6. Another very timely topic is Apple Music. The free trial period ended last Wednesday for those like me who signed up at its launch. Well, Monday morning I logged into my account and set my subscription to not renew, lapsing just a couple days later. Speaking for myself, what a dud that turned out to be. I know I’m not the only one to think so. Just ask Bob Lefsetz. (Or don’t — he might start SCREAMING IN ALL CAPS.)
I suppose that’s as good as place as any to wrap this up. Whew, meandering indeed. While not completely pointless, this post was far from cohesive, which was expected. And, while not particularly evergreen overall, this post demonstrates that many of these topics are ongoing and, as a result, converge.