Sunday, January 29, 2012

At a siding

Close followers will have noticed few postings this year. This is mainly due to a manic focus on writing, defending, revising, and wrapping up my doctoral thesis in the midst of an enormous project at my day/night/weekend job.

Now that the above has mostly calmed, I've been letting the dust settle on the research sphere, at least for now, and thinking more about what's most important to me in this work. That seems very much wrapped up with music, mainly the playing of it. I had mostly put my instruments down over the last ten years, but have been doing a lot of playing in the last couple of months. I've got calluses on my left fingertips for the first time this century. It's a good feeling.

This connection is personal as much as anything else. I've been playing with local friends and neighbors and have no ambitions for it, such as recording or performing, and that feels just right. It's the doing in the moment that matters. Sometimes it reaches a level beyond just the fun of it, and that's great when it happens. I want to reconnect musically with some of my non-local friends and am making plans to do that. Some of those friends are also my closest research and Compendium colleagues, which is probably not coincidental.

Which brings me to what I wanted to say in this post. As I've written elsewhere*, I'm really not  interested in making claims about success if you follow this or that technique or approach. Such claims are all wrong anyway, at least in the sense that there will ever be any kind of silver bullet that will guarantee certain outcomes. It will always come down to what people are able to do in a specific situation. Each situation has its own character, each one is unique. Period. So what matters is who you are and what you do in that situation, the choices you make and the things you're able to achieve, or not.

That is not a formulation that is likely to get me many followers, but it's what I believe. What I care about now is learning how to be effective, when you're doing something that involves creativity and communication and some kind of aesthetic medium, whether that is music or talk or drawings or designs or whatever, and how to talk about what that means.

I think about this kind of thing even in the course of playing music with my local friends. Sometimes you have to make choices about which matters more -- having a fun time with a bunch of people of widely varying abilities, vs. giving some particular song the best possible rendition (which might, for example, mean waiting for some of the less able players to go get a drink in the other room). There's not an inherently right or wrong answer (though these days the fun and warmth of a big group making music together are more important to me than virtuosity).

The point is that these are ethical choices about aesthetic matters. That's what I'm interested in. Along with the aesthetic making itself.


* I'd forgotten about this post which touches on some of the same themes. So does this one, and this one, and especially this one.

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