CURRENTS

Taking Responsibility

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...for your Music...

I'm growing again. Not up or out or anything spatial. But into some new place. Ever feel that down in that place where your molecules are dancing, but it's nothing you can put a name too, nothing that shows on the outside?

There is dynamic (life) and there is stasis (entropy, death). As I said a LONG time ago (so you may accurately quote me) "stasis is when things staysis where they're atsis."

I'm dynamic whether I like it or not. But change and growth get a bit more difficult as we age. And I am trying NOT to think of myself as OLD. This culture presents us with a pretty grim picture of what it's like to be OLD (meaning over 30). At about twice that age, I'm fighting the stereotype.

Not fighting the process.

I stopped dying my hair. It's gray and blonde and white in places and brown too. And I stopped wearing my glasses or my contacts because they just improved my vision marginally (from 20/500 to 20/400, not much of a reason to bother with lenses anymore)... the great thing is that I can see fine to read as long as a book is 6 or 7 inches from my eyes. And I love that the world is all soft and fuzzy, because I was getting tired of what I was seeing when I could see.

The world looks like a Monetnew window to me now.

Here's what I see when I look at a man holding a picture of a duck:

man holding a picture of a duck

That's my friend Donald; an in-focus version is below...

My world was starting to look like a Francis Baconnew window painting (don't know about him? Just one of his many paintings herenew window) which is what our world is looking like more and more.

I prefer Monet; I prefer the blurry man with the duck.

Moving on (reluctantly) I need to take my MUSIC to the next level, wherever that is, whatever that means. I know this is what I feel inside. The need to grow, and to LET THINGS GO! In the words of the great Abbey Lincolnnew window, Throw it Away!

Making music or art or anything alone takes great force. Changing the output can be exhausting! Changing the world can be a bear!

 

I haven't drank a spot of alcohol or smoked a cigarette for a decade now. Most of the world I knew and moved through and lived in was built around alcohol - and attendant altered states.

Most of the world I knew is dead and gone. There are hangers-on, people that won't let go of the misery and the illness, and that's OK. Sometimes that's all people have.

Me, I have no desire to drink or smoke. And the smoking...well, most folks I know have quit that. But the alcohol remains the social lubricant of choice. And I just don't fit in. While everyone is having a bash, I'm bored stiff.

And there are times occasionally when people I meet on the road will want me to have "just one glass of wine" with them, and I can't. I can't have just one, because I'm a reformed alcoholic, solidly reformed.

If I drank a drop I would throw up. Just thinking about it makes me nauseous. Just smelling it makes me queasy.

And I don't like being around tipsy people. I feel embarrassed for them. Well, maybe that's too strong a term. I just feel uncomfortable. Like we're in different dimensions. I don't want to be judgmental. It's OK to drink.

I can't. That's all.

And I've lost work because of it. Because I didn't hang out after the concert, and was not considered very much fun. After all, I went there (usually many thousands of miles) to play serious Music.

I spent my whole life, 60 years of it, getting ready for those moments alone with that piano.

And I didn't WANT to go and hang out afterwards. I wanted to go to my hotel room and sit in my jammies and think and relax and go over the Music in my mind. Unwind.

I get really high when I play, just from the Music and the people. All that joy and love just washes over me. And I give every ounce of energy I have. So if I'm asked to hang out afterwards to get a chance to play, I wind up saying no.

And I really have lost work, thousands and thousands of dollars.

And remember: most business deals are made at the bar.

Since I'm NEVER at the bar, I get very few opportunities or invitations to play. So when people write me in e-mails and ask why I'm not at this or that venue, I can only answer that I've tried, but it requires that I hang out and "do the schmooze".

I don't know how. So I stay home.

I do call promoters for work, but I am not a wildly popular (old) lady. I don't play party music or wild and crazy party jazz. I don't get people's butts shakin' and I don't get the joint jumpin'.

I'm all alone creating delicate Beauty. Looking for Truth. Making people happy, changing some lives, making many folks cry.

Why would a promoter want me for THAT? And I've heard that from others. Things get back to me. "The music is too serious."

So there are two big strikes against me. The first strike is that I won't play in noisy, smoky nightclubs for a hundred dollars a night (average pay for most musicians, slightly more for very well-known musicians). I won't play in noisy, smoky nightclubs for any amount of money. Music like this belongs in the concert halls and churches. I'll even ask for silence (if I have to, which is infrequent) while I perform. It's sacred.

And the second strike is that I don't party.

And I'm not supposed to tell you any of this. Especially the part about how most musicians make a few hundred dollars for a "gig" (a word I hate!) and that I set my OWN value, unrelated to the "market value" placed on "musicians as product".

(A lot more about my feelings on the word "gig" here)

So I am not popular with many many musicians. Most musicians I know will work for very little money. They will consistently undersell themselves. It has become an almost universal habit.

 

I have focused ALL of my energies on the MUSIC. And the MUSIC moves the PEOPLE. Consequently, I have a "draw".

That means that there is money involved. I continue to do well because I work very hard on my Music and I love what I do. I take full responsibility for how often and where I play, and I take full responsibility for my "draw".

So this means that often I work like any self-respecting rock musician does; off of a percentage.

Yet many musicians will work that same "gig" for a a standard fee. I won't even refer to a concert performance by that silly, obsolete, demeaning name.

Again, I take responsibility for my own draw. I don't expect people to lose money over me. I want everyone to make money and be happy.

And the PEOPLE are the most important part.

How can I feel GOOD about myself, good enough to play the Music of the Masters for people who have paid their good hard-earned money, if I am feeling used and "ripped off"? I wouldn't feel worth anything, and I'd let the music slip. I'd stop writing music. I wouldn't put my whole life on the line the way I do now.

I've written over 300 compositions at this point (2006). I have a body of work. It is as much of who I am as my WAY of playing.

It is my way of bringing PEACE and JUSTICE, LIGHT and LOVE, and BEAUTY and TRUTH to the world in the face of an encroaching darkness and a deadening silence.

Occasionally, not often but very occasionally, it may get out of hand (as all great gifts do...like big jungle cats, they have claws and fangs) but I've learned over the years how to walk with it, run with it, play with it. Very rarely do I get bitten, and others even less often. Art is like that too. It is not safe. It is not boring. It is not mediocre.

So I am a lonely woman (shades of Ornette Coleman) in that my business model (pure common sense, to me) is totally different than that of my peers.

I don't like feeling anger. But I find myself being a bit angry at other musicians at times, for playing in good venues for large crowds for next to nothing. Of course, everyone has a right to do what they want to with their gifts, but I feel that it hurts all of us. The people who listen to the music certainly wouldn't approve. Everyone seems aghast if and when they learn that this practice is an ongoing habit.

To me it's a shame. It is not morally right that a promoter or "club-owner" makes twenty times as much as a musician, especially if that musician fills the hall or room. I know that its roots go way back to the beer-halls of Kansas City and the 'Beat' joints of the Village.

But this is 2006. No one can live on a few hundred dollars a month. Really, no one can live on a few hundred dollars a week.

This is the future, and yet this old model persists because musicians let it and because many promoters encourage it.

Oh, do I deplore the word "gig"

gig 1 noun: 1) chiefly historical a light two-wheeled carriage pulled by one horse; 2) a light, fast, narrow boat adapted for rowing or sailing

verb [ intrans. ] travel in a gig. ORIGIN late 18th cent., apparently a transferred sense of obsolete gig [a flighty girl,] which was also applied to various objects or devices that whirled.

gig 2 informal noun (here it is, I love this one): a live performance by or engagement for a musician or group playing popular or jazz music; a job, esp. one that is temporary or that has an uncertain future

gig 3 noun: a harpoon-like device used for catching fish or frogs. verb ( gigged , gigging ) [ intrans. ] catch fish or frogs using such a device. ORIGIN early 18th cent.: shortening of earlier (rarely used) fizgig, probably from Spanish fisga 'harpoon.' (FIZGIG is a word that really fits many jobs I played years ago!)

gig 4 noun: informal computing short for gigabyte

TAKE NOTE: a job, esp. one that is temporary or that has an uncertain future

I personally prefer the harpoon-like device used for catching fish or frogs. It at least is not so transitory in nature and seems to serve some purpose. 'Gig'. As Dr Watson would say, 'Harumph.' If one has a gig, one is giggled. If one is without a gig, one is gigless. If one has many gigs, one has gaggles of gigs. And if one has a small gig, one has a giglet. A big gig is a ... BIG GIG. I used to have gaggles of giglets. Then I was gigless. Now I am so hostile to the word that it makes me work that much harder to NEVER, EVER have to play a concert that could in any way, shape, or form be considered a (gasp) gig.

man holding a picture of a duck