Saturday, December 8, 2012

Teaching Dogs to Drive

Fun news:  we’re making Memory Palace into an album!  Chris and I have had a couple wonderful recording sessions at Oktaven Audio in the heart of Downtown Yonkers with resident Pro Tour level Wizard of Recorded Sound, Ryan Streber.  Updates on its release will eventually follow, but first…

It was Calvin (Bill Watterson’s Calvin) who said, "The problem with being avant-garde is knowing who's putting on who."  

We composers and performers of new classical music tend to put outrageous demands on ourselves, and others. We are willing to do almost anything for the sake of our art and we often take ourselves too seriously in the process (show of hands, nerd friends, if you’ve done it or seen it happen).  At the end of our last session I had a moment of clarity followed by self-doubt and then reassurance.  Perspective:  it’s a powerful weapon in the arsenal of Self Awareness, or Not Being a Tool.

Take after take after take I was blowing into carefully water-tuned beer bottles, trying to achieve something resembling “cantabile” with smooth switches from bottle to bottle, note to note. 

“Wait, I gotta do that again,” I would say, “I cheated the end of the phrase.  Need to breathe from the diaphragm”  

Suddenly I got (unsurprisingly) light headed, like I might float away or pass out.  I held out my arms, said I needed a moment. I took off my headphones, leaned back on my stool and waited for the unbearable lightness to dispel.   I saw a table covered with beer bottles that contained no beer, and several very expensive microphones floating before me in space.  I felt ridiculous.

I peered into the booth at Ryan, asking, “Do you ever open your eyes and wonder ‘what on Earth am I doing?’“

He laughed and said it reminded him of a video he had seen where, in New Zealand, people were training dogs to drive cars.  He imagined of all the time and money that had been invested in the machine shop building custom dog-sized autos, weeks upon weeks of training and, in the end, for what? So that dogs could drive cars.
I found that video and yes, it’s totally absurd (and cute).

[Edit: turns out the driving dog operation is a marketing campaign advocating the adoption of rescued dogs. That's a good thing! But still completely bonkers.]

Ladies and Gentlemen, soapbox time:
Find comfort where you can, folks.  Art is hard, weird, sometimes awkward, and the world at large wants you to feel like it’s a useless endeavor. I may have engaged in an objectively silly activity, but I know full well it was in the service of making really, really pretty music that I will no doubt share with you when the time comes.  Perspective: I know we’re not saving lives here, but if we don’t go out on a limb to make the Nice Things, who will?