I was at a small market baseball game last night. Grass and roasted chicken in the air, clouds rolling in across a sunset over left field. Waiting for my friend, I took out my iPad and jotted down a melody to capture the feeling… a tune with touches of Springsteen and Don Henley.
We later won 6-5 on a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth.
I wrote a staff blog post about developing as a musician. I link to it here for posterity.
Times away from focused work are dry enough that they can soak up the mood you put yourself in. This is easily accomplished with music, or reading. I think there needs to be a balance in what we consume mentally. Maybe consumption isn’t the right word. I’ve been reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance again and it’s coloring my thought. All evaluations of actions and matter is divided into the subjective and objective, the romantic and classic, as Pirsig would say.
I’ve had an opportunity to look at my artistic expression, and that of others, in that dual-pronged way which leads to the evaluation of its quality. Lots of thinking, not much sorted resolution yet. I don’t know how exacting I should be in coming to those kinds of analytic conclusions. “Elliot (Irwin) succeeds in a presentation of society from a whimsical and satirical point of view, but fails to deliver a message of any significant worth.” There’s the word, “worth”, which is indicative of quality. A subjective evaluation of the work is of course going to provide varying results, the opposite would lead to a very cold and rational metric for art, and eliminate all individuality in the field.
So picking apart my feelings and actions is the idle pastime I enjoy while travelling. Whether it produces any long term growth of character I’m not sure, for as I mentioned it all ends rather fuzzy and vague, unrecorded with no notes or deliverables, or checklist for evaluating actionable items after the fact. Yes, we agree to endeavour to do better, to be more sensitive and aware of our actions. But perhaps these distilled spiritual doctrines are exactly what add to the mounting neuroses which impedes my happiness.
I’ve been intentionally avoiding writing lately due to the sensitive nature of what I’ve been working on, which has more or less been the foundation of everything I’ve been working on for the last five months. I started a journey to reinvent myself with a clean break, leaving behind the environment and figures that raised me through adolescence to adulthood. It was scary at first; disconnecting myself from the path I was on with really no idea whatsoever I was going to do was unprecedented for me. But I walked, and I walked, and I thought, and somewhere along the way I found the things that defined me as a professional were the roots I thought I could no longer take strength from.
Art, inspiration, and happiness… I put everything I have into the ideals I’ve carried all the way from youth. I was always afraid that growing up would be the end of what made me who I was, that I’d lose the hopes and dreams that carried me thousands of miles from home. But I now at the threshold of the next fantastic adventure, I find myself just as thrilled and starry-eyed as when I first left America, only now I’m stronger and more focused.
I’ve been writing to a development blog since going independent. I don’t know yet where this is going to fall in my list of priorities in the next chapter of my life, or if Autumn Tactics is going with me to the next continent. Maybe it’s a different blog, maybe part two of the same. Or maybe something just with pictures and captions to bring the taste to your lips.
Anyway it ends up, my period of sequestration is at its end. It’s time to open all the windows and let my song unto the wind.
Brian Eno has been a musician that has guided me through evolution as an engineer and artist ever since I first came across Music for Airports during my golden summer of 2000 in college.
The sweet, melancholy tongue of sound that fits so neatly in the groove of engineering is something I will pursue for the rest of my days. Sometimes I wonder if the frustration fuels my advances as much as it hinders them.
Last night I was fortunate enough to be able to DJ publicly for the first time. A friend of mine in town was organizing a Christmas party and charity event in Daikanyama, and the two of us covered music responsibilities for the night. I purchased an audio controller and a copy of Traktor earlier this year, and to finally be able to use them beyond just playing around at home was rewarding. The event was mainly for socializing, so without the emphasis on music I was relaxed and able to experiment with both technique and dynamic song selection. I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to ease into the next phase of my musical evolution. I hope to have a chance to play again soon.
In the meantime I will refine my trance mix while practicing with Ableton Live and hope to get it up on MixCloud before the new year.
Music has a purpose than runs so deep you couldn’t dig it out with a thousand shovels. It leaves marks on your heart so deep you couldn’t scrub them off with a thousand brushes. It can be your companion, or your teacher; your drug or your daily bread. You can alienate those all around you, or bring them together tighter than spun gold. The music can create is well as destroy, die on the radio or live forever in the hearts of the believers.
What will you have it do with you?
I have a lot of theories that form the framework for my philosophy. Like most people, they’re a cobbled amalgamation of experience, stories, consumed media and things I don’t quite correctly remember someone saying.
One thing that I currently put stock into though is the process for learning something, in particular a craft. Without going into too much detail, a cornerstone of the process is being to judge quality dispassionately. In the critical evaluation of an expression’s fulfillment of the art form, growth may be obtained through practice. Without the ability to separate the wheat from the chaff, there’s no basis to evaluate one’s work and all that ends up being produced is garbage. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough critical ability to evaluate music right now, and it’s impeding my composition. Without this I just paddle around in circles modifying the same elements over and over feeling that something is “wrong”, but not knowing what to do about it.
With software engineering, and to a lesser extent mechanical and electrical, I can tell you what is done well and what is not. It’s easier to build these skills because in science right and wrong is a lot more cut and dry. With photography, from an implementation standpoint I can hold my own, expression-wise things become a little fuzzy. In any case, musically I’m hamstrung by this and I need to grok the difference between “good” and “bad” when it comes to rhythm and timbre.
Admittedly applicable to many, perhaps, but right now applicable to me.
I’ve been thinking about moving recently, to Shimokitazawa, perhaps, to be closer to an active community of young, frenetic artists. However, since I’ve purchased an amazing Presta valve-compatible foot-activated pump for the Trek, I’ve been immensely enjoying riding up and down the Yamanote Line. This bicycle is a golden chariot nimble as a scalpel when slicing up smooth pavement. And the roads at three in the morning are blessedly barren of traffic, so I dart through intersections with the whistle of the wind in my ears.
From my ideally located command center in Yoyogi, in fifteen minutes I can get anywhere from Takadanobaba to halfway between Ebisu and Shibuya on this baby, every sinew loving the efficient euclidean bond between my feet and the Huret drivetrain.
Tonight I left work around nine-thirty, tried to take the Enjoy to Cosmos Cafe in Shibuya (but had to leave it in the parking lot with a flat), taxied up Miyasamazaka to see the Kawaki sisters’ dance, and then sped home to print up more flyers for the show. Around one-thirty I pried myself away from Beer Fest and beat up Meiji Street to catch Mayu’s DJ set at Emotional Signal in Waseda. Now it’s past four and I am almost exhausted. The standard fair six hours’ sleep, and tomorrow I help Okada-san move. Ah, joie de vivre.
In late November I will have my second private gallery showing of the year. I more or less have in my mind what I want to say, but there has been a pall over any concrete progress. I could be procrastinating, or the subjective nature of what I want to achieve may be disturbing my focus.
Still, photographs need to be taken and I’m working with portraits, so over the last three weeks I’ve taken seventeen rolls of film, all of which I have back. Now I need to evaluate if there’s a strong, unified concept, and see if I can make this work. Fortunately, muse visits me from time to time.
This weekend I should go to class and go over the material with my instructor, but the call of a three-day autumn rave is calling strong, and I need to do some deep meditation on matters that have been troubling me.