Surviving The Real “Real World”

Greetings Musikelskere [da. music lovers]!

Well folks, this would probably be considered a coming of age tale. There are those moments in an artist’s life when they face internal conflicts, and there are also moments when those conflicts can only be resolved through tribulation. Sometimes it has to hurt in order to heal.

So, here are a few questions to get us started:
What does it mean to be lost in life as opposed to loosing one’s self to it? Ultimately, what does success mean to you? It is certainly not black and white. Respectfully, a stock broker’s success is likely not the same as the success of an artist. What is fulfillment and where do we find it?”

THE REAL “REAL WORLD”

Well, I have come to learn of late that there is a rather thin line and a subtle difference between being lost in life and loosing yourself. For myself, there have been two main states of being during my life: Lost or Awake. A transition from lost to found or dazed to aware takes will and deliberation to make it happen. Finding one’s direction can be more difficult than one would believe; at least more of a challenge than I expected.

I have often explained to people that before I found music, I was in a lost state and did not have a sense of drive. I have written about that time in my life before. Read From Gags to Pitches for an insight into that experience of awakening. With those lessons in mind, I have come to realize that I had too easily misconstrued the “real world” while pursuing my music degree. I was never naïve to the hardships of the “real world.” However, I never knew how much they could consume my priorities as a musician. Survival as an artistic mind in the so-called “real world,” is less about staying financially afloat than it is about keeping your artistic drive afloat.

dictionary-series-philosophy-truthThere is a wonderful list of real world falsehoods written by University of Missouri’s Trulaske College of Business professor Charles W. Keene. A few of these consist of:
1)You’re amazing at everything you do
2)You have to be perfect
more…

I have been working at the same restaurant as a server for almost two years since I graduated from Adams State. When I started waiting tables, I told myself that it was a temporary endeavor. Well… that worked out differently then expected. The grind of paychecks, bills, insurance, rent, (you know, survival) had sucked me in so far that I lost sight of my artistic goals. I went months without writing music, and regrettably longer without playing piano, and my naturally productive personality was sacrificed entirely. I hit, what was for myself, rock bottom. I was again in a lost state with no direction. Now, that I have been lost for so long, I have opened my eyes again and remembered who I used to be and what makes me a sane human being and an artist. While I may be considered a successful waiter in the “real world,” the fulfillment as a musician is not there. I have come to realize that success is a subjective concept. Even if I owned my own restaurant I wouldn’t feel successful, because I would not be enriched musically.

I have rediscovered my sense of direction the hard way. I encourage you to never loose sight of your passions. It could be the difference between feeling lost and finding success. In hindsight, I now aim to strive for a true feeling of success in any stage of my life.

Thanks for reading the Musik Modus Mémoires!

MISSION LOSSLESS! Why to Upgrade your Music Library [also, “Long time, no see…”]

Greetings Musikelskere [da. music lovers]!

I will begin by acknowledging that it has been quite some time since I have shared with the website, and while a well-versed music business professor (James Doyle) of mine at ASU advised to “Never apologize for content,” I would nonetheless like to extend one for my absence. My focus of the past year has been largely based on survival. That in mind, I have recently vowed to spend more time practicing my journalism, sharing it with you fine people, and of coarse playing more music. I can only hope that YOU will be along for the ride!

Cheers, Eliot

THANK YOU, MOVING ON

So…I have a new found mission that will likely take quite some time to fulfill. Fellow audiophiles can probably understand where I am going with this.
I call it “MISSION LOSSLESS!

I should rewind a bit first. There was something I learned (who’d a thought) during my undergraduate work at Adams State (now University) in Alamosa, CO. More specifically, while taking a computer music course with Dr. Matthew Schildt, I experienced a radical change in opinion with regards to why one should invest in lossless CDs/vinyl versus simply downloading music, whether it be through the ease of iTunes and online markets designed for purchasing and downloading your tunes, or pirating material through Pirate Bay and such. Now, the music piracy discussion has many opinions on either side of the coin, but I will say, on my own behalf, that by investing the money otherwise spent (or, perhaps not spent) on downloads has undeniably made me a better musician.

Now, it does not really make me a more technical musician, but it certainly does enrich my sense of music as an art form. There are two main principles that contributed to this:

Firstly, there is the question of quality, and the main contributing factors in this are compression, bitrate, and what we like to call the Loudness Wars. To keep it simple, the bitrate for a lossless audio CD track is 1,411.2 Kb/s while the bitrate for the highest quality MP3 is only 320Kb/s. If your now asking what the 340% bitrate increase from MP3 to CD does to the sound, I will let you utilize the links below and do some listening for yourself. The difference will surely surprise you (assuming you know what you are listening for). Don’t get me wrong, though. I am still a fan of the MP3 and using for what it was originally intended, saving space. Even that, however, must be done within reason.

Secondly, there is a question of contribution. Of coarse, I am referring to the economic benefits for the artist and all who helped make an album (engineers, producers, publishers, etc.) that come from selling CDS as opposed to downloads. It is mostly based on royalties received and the difference is rather influential. There are links below that go into more detail. I discussed this is my past blog: Saving the Industry, One Song at a Time

Well…is it worth it to me? to spend more on CDs? and wait for them to arrive in the mail? or, stand in line at retail? I would personally say, as one involved in the industry, a billion time YES! To be anecdotal, think of the difference between watching a movie in theaters versus watching a distorted, haphazard bootleg online. To me the decision is easy. How easy is it for you to choose?

IN ANY CASE

So, what does “Mission Lossless” mean to me? Well I have simply made a spreadsheet of all the music in my library that needs to be replaced over the years to come. It is essentially a list I put on in my Google Drive that I can refer to when I am browsing in a record store, looking at what is on sale in Bestbuy, or wherever I happen to be potentially purchasing music. Here is a link to my not-yet-on-lossless spreadsheet if you are at all curious what that looks like.

FUTURE READING/LISTENING

Thanks for reading the Musik Modus Mémoires!

Caught in Limbo

Transitions are funny things in the music industry, or the arts in general. They are daunting, nervous, and exciting, but at the same time they can be refreshing, relaxing, and full of surprise. I am in such a transition currently as I leave my undergraduate studies behind me and set sail. I am not a sailor but something I have known that relates is free falling.

Some of you may know the feeling. Your on edge and all that is left to do is jump. I mean you have come this far, to not take that final step would be a slap in the face. In Lincoln City, Oregon (where my father lives) there is a skate park that possess the largest cradle in North America. My brother and I call it “The Slide.” Here’s a video to explain why.

“[Facebook] The Slide, Lincoln City, Oregon”

Maybe some of you have ridden a zip-line, gone cliff jumping, or even jumped off a roof onto a trampoline? Perhaps you have even tried skydiving, base-jumping, or bungee jumping?

What ever the case, most of us understand that feeling of taking a literal “leap of faith.” You understand the paradoxical feeling of limbo. The excitement of free falling, letting go of inhibitions, being scared s***less, and having faith in yourself.

Well such transitions in a music career are quite similar. Sure it can be scary not knowing what to expect and loosing control, but there is meditation to be had in those moments of uncertainty and just remember that you need to keep faith in yourself and and an eye on the prize.

I wrote a poem in 2010 entitled “Take a Step” about a similar transition that I was experiencing at the time, which still applies to this day. I have been meaning to set this to song in some fashion, but have not yet found the appropriate music for it. Enjoy.

Thanks for reading the Musik Modus Mémoires!

Watch Your Tongue!

If the tongue had not been framed for articulation, man would still be a beast in the forest
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication
-Leonardo da Vinci

IN ENGLISH…

Above are two obviously contrasting perspectives. They make me wonder if Ralph and Leo would have gotten along in polite conversation? On the surface, Emerson offers a blatant commentary on language and how it defines us, while Da Vinci’s words are less specific, more philosophical, and reaffirm the old adage, less is more. However, today, in this article, these two ideals have meaning that resonates rather harmoniously, yet clash in a way that I can best describe through music. No surprise there. I see their relationship as the minor second of language, separated by a fine line of frequency. The trick is deciding which pitch, if either, is correct.

FOR WRITING OUT LOUD!

Is it really possible to decide? Sure, some pitches are sharp, some are flat. Those of us with a trained ear can tell the difference. However, some cultures embrace and prefer notes, scales, and harmonies that are out of tune. The same certainly applies to ones lexicon.
Or, do we even need to? Is there a balance, a microtone so to speak, in which these two ideals can coincide? Recently, I have been encouraged to reevaluate the “lofty” choice of words in my writing. I often use rather verbose language that often comes across as arrogant or excessive, regardless of my humble intensions. Perhaps I should aim to “say what I mean” more often, and furthermore aim to do so more plainly. Yet, at the same time we should all aim to “mean what we say” as well. I  can honestly say that I choose my words carefully. I mean what I say. Do you? A common writing technique is to write the way you speak. This practice comes naturally to me because I have a habit of always reading what I have written out loud. I recommend trying it sometime. See if it works for you in the editing process.

UNIVERSALLY SPEAKING (OR SINGING)

It is understood that the world (music too) is never as black and white as the music on the page. Nothing is or can be that definable. That is just not how life twist and turns. Therefore, please, if you may, embrase your language, own it, and practice the craft of speaking as you would music. There was another wise yet cynical man named George Carlin who once said “People think in language.” In that sense, ask yourself next time you sit down to write, compose, perform, paint, etc., “what is my language?”

A CALL FOR CRITICISM

Along this stream of thought, I humbly ask that any and all reading this please offer your criticisms of my language. If I have said something that makes no sense whatsoever, please say so. The same goes for the contrary. I embrace as Socrates did the Transformative philosophy that if you can prove me wrong, please do so. At least then I will have learned something.

SPECIAL THANKS

  • Dr. Matthew Schildt and Prof. James Doyle for constantly keeping me in check.
  • And, all my friends and family who bear with me through all my linguistic journeys. It means a great deal.
  • Image – Ebon Heath

Thanks for reading the Musik Modus Mémoires!

Jammin’ and Changing Lives

Greetings Musikelskere [da. music lovers]!

Music often lends a hand to those in need, even when we least expect it.

A FRIDAY NIGHT CALLING

I would like to share a rather heartwarming experience I had two weeks back. It was a late Friday night and I had just finished a rehearsal for one of my latest pieces entitled Strange Patience (for brass quintet and percussion). After packing up my score and putting on my jacket, ready to bear the notorious Alamosa winds, I wandered aimlessly out of the empty band room towards my trusty Subaru “Norma.” Being the retrospective person that I am, it seems that something had called to me that night. I was tired and ready to drive home, make dinner, and enjoy a restful Friday night in. This “calling” of sorts was significant in how I managed to venture the opposite direction than I had parked my car. As I waddled tiredly down the hallway I noticed a group congregating in the lobby. I realized immediately who they were and what they were meeting for. It was Friday night after all, upon which music majors and ASC students alike meet for Home Cooking.

Organized and hosted by the local Seventh-day Adventists, Home Cooking is a weekly event in which tired and hungry students meet and eat at a host’s home. Exhausted and famished, I humbly asked if I could tag along that evening. I felt compelled to decompress with friends and enjoy a home-cooked meal. They had always extended the invitation, yet I had never until then accepted the offer. I had always disallowed myself the luxury. However, this time I did not, expecially after a long week of hard work.

JAMMING WITH A STRANGER

I followed my friends and hopped a ride to a cozy home in Antonio where we enjoyed home-made falafel. The night was exactly what I needed: good food and god people. However, this is where the night took an unexpected turn. Perhaps some of you reading have had a similar experience. Upon mid-conversation I was suddenly stricken by the sound of music. I stopped what I was saying mid-sentence and followed my enticed mind over to the living-room where my friend and fellow composer Josh Wohlrabe was jamming on a hand drum with a guy playing guitar. I grabbed the first instrument I could find (a child-sized djembe) and started following. We played through a few vamps that Jessey (guitar) had laid down for us. Later that night, Jessey and I got to talking about musical interests (what he and I listened to most often) and the level of gratitude that Jessey expressed was purely genuine and pleasantly unexpected. He told me that Josh and I had “made his day, perhaps even his week.”

On a side note Jessey had mentioned a band to me that I had never heard of. As an “active listener,” when I first got home that night, I Googled Animals As Leaders, and this is what I found; a wicked prog metal band headed by guitarist Tosin Abasi. If you read a bit about Abasi, I believe you will find him to be a rather inspiring musician. After turning down a record deal earlier in his career to get a degree from Atlanta Institue of Music, he has returned better than ever.

Here’s a taste of his latest music: Animals As Leader – CAFO

It just goes to show that you never know who you may touch, what you may find, and what friends you may make through music. Next time a similar circumstance presents itself, give it a shot, because you never know, you may just make somebody’s day.

SPECIAL THANKS

This week I would like to thank Jessey, Josh Wohlrabe, Andrea Cherne, Pastor Jim Moon and the Seventh-day Adventists for inspiring this awesome evening.

Thanks for reading the Musik Modus Mémoires!

Saving the Industry, One Song at a Time

THE MISNOMER OF A DYING INDUSTRY

In the past year or so, we have all heard the many depressing notions about the so-called “decline of music business.” With the growth of an era of piracy, intellectual property (IP) theft, “Loudness Wars,” orchestra companies and record labels going bankrupt, and possibly worst of all Bieber, we have come face-to-face with a rather slippery slope in the music industry. The music we live and breath has been polluted and devalued in numerous ways. However, I offer a sliver of optimism; a gleam of hope. We are are not doomed after all!

During my studies for Topics in Music Business, I have come across some exciting perspectives on the growth of our beloved industry. Here are a few articles that provide a hopeful outlook. Please, take the time to read them over if you have not already. They are fairly short.

ART AS AN ECONOMIC STIMULUS

In the first article, Lee Ann Obringer shares the hypothetical journey of an aspiring songwriter who plays their cards right and prospers in the industry. Now, while this may only be a dream of sorts, it communicates a very encouraging message about how one song can fuel an industry. In the process of getting a song promoted, recorded, published, performed, etc., the songwriter also manages to stimulate economy and provide a means of employment to a more people than just themselves. In this, I profess that making music, specifically in written or creative forms (i.e. songwriting, composing, or improvising), we offer a service to the world. Although it is of worldly value, this service is nonetheless profound it how it enriches the livelyhood of others. Music is a gift that keeps on giving.

A MOMENT OF HUMILITY

I am by no means an expert on economy or music business and understand that there is more at play in the game of music industry. However, I sincerely find validity in these hopeful perspectives. I have acknowledged numerously in past posts, (directly and indirectly) how music benefits society. The impact that our art has on community, individuals, politics, and  every other cultural facet is undeniable. I have come to notice these benefits the more I study the art of sound and silence and what it means to others. A friend of mine recently told me of a person he once knew whose family simply DID NOT listen to music. They had no real desire to do so. My friend and I shared a moment of bafflement and proceed to say, “what a sad life that would be.” Reflecting later on, I thought, “this family is likely affected by the music industry whether they choose to indulge it, or not.”

I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.
-Billy Joel

SPECIAL THANKS

For this post, I would like to extend my thanks to every member of the music industry to date. We are not lost and you are living reasons why. Please, keep creating.

Thanks for reading the Musik Modus Mémoires!

Self-fulfilling Prophecies Become Dreams, Actualized

If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences

 –Thomas Theorem, reformulated by Robert K. Merton

INTRODUCTION: FINDING PURPOSE IN WHAT WE DO

The opportunity recently arose to build a resume for the sake of my Topics in Music Business course at Adams State College. During the process of building my current resume, which I will discuss later, I came to realize and took note of a few intrinsic and universal values that accompanied it’s creation. The most profound of these realizations was that a resume is more than just a “career snapshot,” as author David Cutler titles it in The Savvy Musician. It is more than the piece paper that we use when job-hunting, and it certainly should be more than just an assignment for class. While there is no denying that it serves this purpose, it is worth noting that the “exercise” of writing a resume also fulfills a greater purpose–it has more meaning. There is a mindset that I have recently re-adopted into my life and begun implementing into my learning more than I have done in years past, and that is, as I addressed earlier, to find both the intrinsic and universal value in all that we do.

For me, since this is my immediate environment, this principle mostly applies to my academia. Often times, we are asked to write a paper, complete a homework assignment, or even take a class that we may not want to. Sometimes we convince ourselves, whether as an excuse or merely out of complacency, that these “assignments,” which actually stand true to their literal definition, do not apply to us or our futures. An innate paradoxical human desire that we all face is the need to feel unique and separate from the heard, while at the same time yearning for social interaction. Firstly, to deny either as a bare-necessity would be somewhat naïve. We all need both in order to sustain our mental and physiological well-being. However, what seems to take prevalence in our minds, when making such claims as “This does not apply to my future,” is that our careers run outside of the status quo. For the sake of discretion, I will not name names. However, there are peers of mine who complain about such things and in such a way that resembles the situations mentioned above. I will acknowledge duly that I am no saint, and have certainly expressed statements similar to this in the past. However, I challenge us to search for that intrinsic and universal value in doing the things we do not want to do, even if they seem illogical at the time. A friend of mine once informed me that writing a lengthy essay is made easier, almost simplistic, when you aim to find purpose in what you are writing. If nothing else, this will certainly exercise our patience; and as musicians, this is a virtue that we can always use more of.

SO, WHAT CAN A RESUME DO FOR YOU?

Above all, a resume is an instrument of self-reflection and a means of mapping out goals that we hope to achieve. I started out the construction of my resume by compiling a list of all the applicable experiences in my life (i.e. employment, education, honors, etc.) and with foresight also compiled a list of “dream jobs/experiences” that I hope to have attained in 5 years. Rather than exhaust the process with all the details of what goals I developed, I have attached a combined resume above to illustrate, in red, the major changes I hope to make in the next five years. Please click the photo above to view the differences. While some are left vague on purpose, the important part is that I have mapped out a timeline for when I will roughly be able to achieve these goals. As an extension of this “assignment,” I referenced back to a worksheet we filled out at the beginning of the semester. This sheet, which you may download HERE, was a Personal Inventory & Goal Worksheet. It’s function was to instigate brainstorming about our current skills sets and what we hope to achieve in the not-too-distance future. Using this as a reference point I was able to take my resume and build off of it, creating a dream resume dated five years in the future. I also used resumes of other composers who are pursuing as well as succeeding within similar fields that I hope to. There are plenty of talented, successful film composers out there to chose from.

ACTUALIZING OUR DREAMS

The term self-fulfilling prophecy rings clear when discussing this exercise. Published in an article by Robert K. Merton titled “The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy,” he provides a reformulation of the Thomas Theorem that epitomizes the principle that I hope to communicate. It states, “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.” This reinforces in my mind that if I am patient and always strive for more, then my dreams are seemingly more feasible. As a friend of mine puts it, “You are always ten paintings away from your masterpiece.” However, keeping that mindset, just imagine how incredible that painting will be eleven paintings from now. Just remember that self-fulfilling prophecies can easily become actualized dreams.

SPECIAL THANKS

For this week’s blog, I would like to thank education and friends for giving me the means to follow my own leads and develop an intrinsic and universal sense of learning.

Thanks for reading Musik Modus Mémoires!

Words are Messy, Music is…

Greetings Musikelskere [da. music lovers]!

I would like to introduce this week’s article by asking one compelling question: What is Music?

FINDING THE WORDS TO SAY WHAT YOU MEAN

Throughout our lives and careers as musicians we often come across this question in multiple settings, and, as active thinkers, are compelled to sensibly produce a different answer within each context. Depending on that context, we ascribe a different meaning for what music is from our perspective. Those differing responses to such circumstantial situations are as endless as music itself and as unique as each person that conjures them into conversation. Most musicians have their own distinctive belief as to what music is. However, how do we honestly muster those words? How is that possible; to define the seemingly indefinable? Is there a “proper definition” of music?

If you were to take a moment to Google the phrase “music is,” both in Search and Images, you would find that the perspectives are rather wide-spread. Everything from metaphorical quotes to Wikipedia definitions, visual renderings, and even scientific analyses of sound. Each of which offer interpretations of what music is and communicate a perspective very effectively. However, there is a phenomenon behind the art of music that eludes language entirely. The following are a few examples of interpretations/renderings I have found in my research.

MEANING THROUGH METAPHOR

  • Music is what feelings sound like.
  • Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul. –Plato
  • Music = Life (This is a commonly used metaphor around the web)
  • After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music. –Aldous Huxley

MEANING THROUGH DEFINITION

We may also define music in the simplest and most straightforward of terms:

New Oxford American Dictionary

noun
1 the art or science of combining vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion

Wikipedia

“Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence.” Read more…

MEANING THROUGH IMAGE

MEANING THROUGH SCIENCE

Scientifically, we can explain how sound waves behave according to physics and even how the art of music is formed through interpretations and conditioned responses to sound. Comparing the differing perspectives of the sound, Christopher Dobrian, composer and professeur of music at the Claire Trevor School of the Arts at UCIrvine, acknowledges the cause and effect of sounds and the perceptions thereof in his article Music and Language.

“For example, when we hear a lion’s roar, our ear drum simply receives continuous changes in air pressure. The cochlea, so we are taught, responds to the frequencies and amplitudes of those changes and conveys those responses to the brain. Our brain, by means largely unknown to us (past experience, instinct, deduction, instruction in roar analysis?) evaluates those time-varying frequencies and amplitudes as a lion’s roar. Our brain then derives further information about the actual source of the sound and its meaning. A person in one time or place might interpret the sound to mean “My life is in danger. I must run away from the sound source immediately as fast and as far as I can.” A person in another time or place might look around calmly for the electronic recording device that produced the simulation of a lion’s roar. A person who had never learned to associate that sound with any particular source–e.g., a person who had never heard a similar sound before–might attempt to compare it with other known sounds, or might even remain unconcerned as to what produced the sound.

[…] the sound phenomenon which is external to our body–the fluctuation of air pressure–is considered an objective informational message, and everything that happens once it is converted by our “transducer” is subjective, based on our brain’s understanding of the transducer’s output, our own life experience, and our own favored ways of deriving knowledge. We may quite easily say, “That sound symbolizes a lion,” but would we so easily say, “That sound symbolizes a tape recorder”? Are we talking about the sound or about our own personal referents derived from the sound?”

FINDING THE MUSIC TO EXPRESS WHAT CANNOT BE SPOKEN

Does this help us conceptualize what music is? It certainly shows how subjective it is to interpretation. One of most resounding facets, which is in itself an interpretation, is that music is incredibly mysterious and vast. However, is there really a need (to cite author Dan Brown’s neologism) to decode this cryptex. We can try, and may even come pretty close at times, but I offer the following paradox that lies therein:

While music (as a member of the fine arts) is one of the truly universal languages, how is it that no spoken language seems to communicate what music really is?

On a personal level, I have been known to profoundly overanalyze things. Acknowledging this, it seems that part of the beauty of music is that it is so indefinable, or on the contrary, universally meaningful. To claim that one definition of music outweighs the importance or validity of another would be close-minded. Meaning, or belief, is as unique as one’s fingerprint and as infinite as the universe. My own “definition” that has grown out of this concept of multiple perceptions is as followed:

noun
1 . the art or science of combining vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion
New Oxford American

2 . my single most ineffable paramour

3 . my Atman, a means to exist

I personally choose to assign multiple meanings that infer different things, because in my mind music is not as black and white as the notes on the page. Technically, this three-part definition could easily grow into dozens upon dozens of derivatives. There is certainly more to music than I have addressed here. It is worth noting that music is as much a verb as it is a noun, and that it functions in society as a living, breathing entity. Yet, that is a topic for another day.

CONCLUSION

It seems that we build a language-based meaning for what music means in our lives when there are truly no words that could begin to describe what music is. For the sake of those reading this, consider your perspective. First, ask yourself how you would finish the phrase “Music is…,” then ask yourself, “Does that even come close?” You may find, as I did, that music is so incredibly vast that it cannot be restricted to one set of definitions. As a universal language, music is translatable into most any language and thusly lends itself to a “vast sea” (more metaphor) of possible interpretations and perhaps is not meant to be defined in one way, but all ways.

SPECIAL THANKS

I would like to thank my brother, Billy Mickelson, and many others for sharing this perspective with me. You have inspired me to procreate many of my own ideals. I also wish to acknowledge and appreciate music for being my means of communicating that which cannot be spoken, because words are messy, and music is what it is.

Thanks for reading Musik Modus Mémoires!

The Umbrella Effect of Human Decency

Unfinished Concert, o/c by I. Mudrov

INTRODUCTION

It seems that all too often we, musician’s, tend to loose ourselves in the pursuit of improving our business tactics in the industry. When we study and examine the “business” that we are in, we can loose foresight of the big picture behind being an entrepreneur in an artistic industry. I humbly believe that this “grand scheme” involves the following principle: If we are naturally well-rounded people, then our careers will likely be just as well-rounded. The qualities that come with being a better person easily become the qualities that define a more respectable, and better in my opinion, entrepreneur. The reason I correlate the characteristic of “respectability” with “better,” is because there is less room for corruption when one aims to be a humane businessperson. I firmly believe in upholding ethics under such a professional title, as well as in all walks of life. I am speaking of the umbrella effect and influence that human decency and positive character can potentially have upon every facet of our lives, especially upon our careers as artists. The following provides a few examples of ethics that strongly reenforce a better entrepreneurial style.

THE COMMONALITY OF KINDNESS

The golden rule states, treat others as you wish to be treated. This applies so thoroughly and rather universally that it encompasses all aspects of our careers. If we aim to be respectful, we are more likely to be respected. If we engage others professionally, we have a better chance of being regarded as a professional. There is something significant to be said about the musicians who aim to better themselves as a person as well as a businessperson. These are the individuals, which of whom I like to consider myself, that learn about the tactics of a truly successful entrepreneur and experience a profound feeling of, “Duh!” If you, like me, experienced something like this in your studies, than you likely understand why this feeling is so profound. We hear about unique individuals, like Carl Ciasulli, who build and manage their crew, ensemble, and overall business upon the virtues of decency and human kindness. We also learn from these people that people skills are just as important as the art that we are presenting and sharing with the world.

I recently attended a guest lecture at the Adams State College Department of Music that was less of a lecture an more of a story session and discussion with a self-proclaimed and reputable stage manager named Carl Ciasulli. He shared many of his past experiences with us and reaffirmed much of what we have been taught in our music business class. Even after thirty minutes, I personally felt like I had known the guy for much longer than that. He inspired me to be a more respectful person if I wish to succeed in the music industry. I also learned, via a humorous comment that he made about me, that I am “the question guy.” Place me in a situation in which questions are not only allowed but encouraged, and I will ask away. You don’t have to ask me twice. Although there was much to learn from his stories, I can put the overall atmosphere and moral of the evening into one quote:

If you act like an a**hole, you’re gonna be treated like one.

-Carl Ciasulli

This is SO important in our lives as entrepreneurs, and somehow there are still musicians out there that do not give a damn who they step on or what people think of them. For example, there is a band I listen to called Fantômas. At one point, I used to really admire the creativity and opinions that Mike Patton (vocalist for the band) expressed through his music. However, when I heard from my brother, who met Patton after a show a while back, that he was actually kind of jerk, I lost respect for his music. While I still enjoy listening to Fantômas, my interest has become stifled by the poor character of the man behind it.

WHY DO I CARE?

I for one do not find the least bit of struggle in upholding this type of business plan/strategy/style (whatever you want to call it). I do not find this difficult because it was first my lifestyle before it ever became my business strategy. I do not help an elderly lady with her drink at a restaurant because I want to sell her something. I do it because it is ethical, respectful, and kind. I do not hug a friend when he/she is having a bad day because it is good for my reputation. I do it because I care. I do not approach a well-known stage manager, like Carl Ciasulli, because it is good for my career. I do it because he is a good person and it is much more valuable to me to befriend such a person for the sake of befriending them and learning from their experiences. The potential reference and business connection that comes with that is merely the cherry on top that sweetens that connection–it is simply an added bonus.

REALITY CHECK

Before anyone jumps to the conclusion that “Eliot does not understand the meaning of working in the music business,” allow me to address that I understand perfectly well the importance of thriving financially and making connections that progress one’s career. If we plan to make a living doing what we love, we cannot be afraid of earning money in the process. All to often, the public believes that we ONLY make music for fun, which is such a misconstrued perception of our careers. Yes, we do this because we love it. Yet, we desire the need to survive in this society just as much as the next guy/gal. To quote a friend of mine, “you should charge what your worth,” and music is worth much more than the current value that these individuals ascribe to it.

If you take anything away from this, please take this with you and carry it in your pocket at all times: When we aim to better ourselves as human beings, our successes are more likely to follow and reciprocate those efforts. In this instance, we embrace the umbrella effect of human decency.

SPECIAL THANKS

I would like to thank my genuinely caring friends for teaching me to teach myself to be a better person. I would also like to thank Carl Ciasulli for his stories and inspirations.

Thanks for reading Musik Modus Mémoires!

The Devil is in the Details

“Moonlight” Sonata Op.27 No.2 by Ludwig van Beethoven

INTRODUCTION

When approaching new music, either as a performer, composer, or even an educator, musicians often become overwhelmed by the endless amount of detail there is to take into consideration. If we hope to “not suck” as musicians, we need to better our craft. Furthermore, in order to better our craft, there is much patient and detailed study that is involved in becoming a more skilled musician. This act of obsessing over detail is known as minutia, and the following is an attempt to provide insight into how the obsession over desperate nuance(s) dwells within all areas of music study. Each of the three fundamental forms of music have the potential to exercise such an obsession.

THE MUSICAL PARADOX: MUSIC VS. MINUTIA

composer, who is methodical enough to do so, will consider numerous aspects of a piece before they ever write a note. Such facets include, but are not restricted to, their cause, the purpose of the piece they hope to write, the instrumentation thereof, perhaps the venue, their target audience, and most importantly their motivation. I am not nearly this methodical about my writing. However, I am aware of composers who are/were, and even without having a methodology I always contemplate the infinite, chaotic amount of detail there is behind the music I am writing.

I will be the first to admit that teaching is quite low on the list of attributes that ascribe to my musical identity. Nonetheless, I have come to understand how the minutia that ails us as performers and composers can easily transcend into the work of aneducator. Music teachers are some of the most important people in our society, let alone our musical communities. They have to approach their students with the understanding that they are just as, if not more, responsible for the students success. They have the burden, and pleasure, and honor of holding that student’s musical future in the palm of their hand. It is a huge responsibility. Not to mention the planning and level of skill  that is required to teach music. They have plenty of their own nuances to concern themselves with.

A performer, one who is seemingly patient enough, may first analyze the piece of music that they hope to learn (most of us skip that step). Next, they are likely to approach the notes, but not without at least first considering the dynamics, style, articulation, phrasing, fingerings, tempo, rhythmic characteristics, melodic contour, harmonic functions, et cetera. Lest we not forget about our warm-ups, etudes, or scales before we ever get as far as playing any “real” music. No wonder most beginning musicians develop a distaste for practicing. I for one, can attest that practicing is a rather lonely and patient process. This is for certain. I am one of the few people in my immediate musical community that actually loves practicing. Naturally, this is a mindset that we need to grow into as we mature musically and mentally. As performers, we approach music in this way from the beginning because we want to learn the piece “properly.” Most musicians have heard the phrase “practice makes perfect.” A lesser population of us are aware that practice does NOT make perfect. Professional and semi-professional performers understand this as they become more serious players, merely because they are taught “perfect practice makes perfect.” Of coarse, perfection can be a double-edged sword for a performer, but that is a topic for another day. The point is that performers have their fair share of nicety as well.

A STORY

I recently encountered one such experience when I re-approached a piece that I had first learned nearly four years ago. In an effort to instill some personal sentiment into my Junior Piano Recital this semester, I decided to pull out the first piano piece that I ever learned in my private lessons with Dr. William Lipke. This piece, more popularly known as “Moonlight” Sonata (Sonata No.14, Op.27 No.2, I. Adagio sostenuto by Ludwig van Beethoven), was the perfect way in my mind to frame my development as a pianist during my four years at Adams State College. My poor assumption was that the piece would be easily refreshed in my mind and my fingers would magically play the music that I had memorized three years prior. However, as to be expected, it was not that simple. I played the first four measures and then had no clue where to move next. As if I were cracking a code, each measure became an enticing new puzzle for me to solve. The editor’s fingerings became tools to better facilitate the musical character of the piece. Layered part-writing and the articulation therein became a challenge to overcome. To make a long story short, I essentially had to relearn the piece from scratch and approach it with the methods that I had learned in the years since that first semester of piano lessons. It makes perfect sense. However, due to the new obsessive style of learning that I have seemed to develop, there was an unruly amount of detail that I decided to take into consideration this time around. Three weeks later, I now have the piece virtually relearned and seemingly re-memorized. I better understand the structure of the piece and could likely start playing at any major section without hearing what came before it. This was a rather fulfilling moment for me as a performer and pianist.

BALANCE

However, in retrospect, there were a few ideas that adorned my thoughts after going through this process. One fortunate realization that occurred to me was that I am obviously progressing and maturing as a musician. I have developed a higher level of patience when it comes to music that I did not have four years ago. This is reassurance that music will be a lifelong journey and I await what a similar experience may feel like in another four years. Another, more troubling, thought occurred to me as well. It seems, especially for someone like myself that has an almost Obsessive-Compulsive approach to learning, music could become so wrought with minutia that a musician could then easily lose themselves and the art in the process. I recently told a friend of mine, through a light-heated analogy, that 66% of the purpose of music is for others, 33% is for intrinsic value, and what is done with the last 1% is where the magic of music exists. At first it seems somewhat silly to assign a measurement to the amount of magic that occurs when we make music. However, we cannot lose that 1%. I believe that, though it is a small measure, within that 1% exists the reason we became musicians in the first place and if we lose sense of that 1%, what is the point in making music? The 1% percent is the reason WE are musicians by trade and others are not. It is the inexplicable facet of this artform we call music that cannot be controlled or explained through details, reason, facts, or figures.

IN CONCLUSION

I suppose the point I am trying to make is that while perfect practice makes perfect and attention to detail pays off, it seems that the devil dwells in those details and finds a means of distracting us from the 1%. Funny–it is a rather ironical and paradoxical concept when you think about it. I am advising that we not obsess over the details, but somehow in the process managed to assign a specific, detailed measurement to the most inexplicable facet therein. It is both fascinating and frustrating how the brain works in circles sometimes and manages to create connections that otherwise would not be made. In any case, I hope this article has inspired you to find your own 1% and never lose sight of it. Please, cherish it and think for a second, “Why and how did I become a musician in the first place?” You may be amazed at how revealing the answer to that question can be.

SPECIAL THANKS

I would like to extend my thanks to all my friends and professors in the music department at Adams State College for providing the inspiration for this article. I would not be the musician I am today without you. I would also like to thank my best friend and mate, Tamiya. I thank you for allowing me to vent all my inspirations at you regardless of how daunting and scattered they are at times. I thrive on your support.

Thanks for reading Musik Modus Mémoires!