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?”


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

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!

Saving the Industry, One Song at a Time


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.


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.


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


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!

The Devil is in the Details

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!

From Gags to Pitches

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From day one we are lost, essentially lost, until we find that drive in our lives that helps us pursue more. This is a rather fundamental aspect of growing up. For most of those reading this, and myself, this “drive” came from music. As Cutler states in The Savvy Musician, “music somehow carried an air of excitement like nothing else. […] Somehow, pursuing anything else began to seem like a crime,” and I can certainly relate to that experience:


When I was young, and I am sure most of you had a similar experience, people would ask me, “What do you want to be when you grow up? A pharmacist, like your dad, or an artist like your mom?” I am sure there were a few answers over time. Those ideals change constantly when you are a child. Nonetheless, the one response I can remember most was, “I want to be an inventor.” Oddly enough, as I grew up, I never actually pursued my future as an inventor. I just ate bugs and sang songs and climbed trees like most children. And though I may have been “distracted” during my prepubescent years, I eventually found what I see in retrospect as the best way I know to be inventive, music.

Sigur Rós was touring this album when I saw them in Portland, OR

It was that one concert, for me, that changed everything. Not my first concert, but THE concert. I saw Sigur Rós for the first time in Portland, Oregon. I don’t recall what the venue was, but I am sure I could ask my brother, Billy. He was the one that drove me halfway across the state of Oregon to see Sigur Rós. The experience changed my life forever. Even though I had played music throughout my childhood, (piano lessons, trumpet in junior high, etc.) this one concert was what instilled in me a passion for music. Since then my eyes have opened to a new world of possibility. I realize now, only in retrospect, that I actually became and inventor without knowing it. The art of creating music, in particular but not restricted to composition, is the most inventive artform I have ever known. Of coarse, this is not to discredit other arts. All art can be amazingly inventive. Music was just what fate chose for me, so to speak.


The moral of the story is that since I found music, I have been awake to the world and my potential to pursue what it has to offer. The point I am trying to make is that my life went from gags to pitches. I refer to the kinds of gags that silence a person and make them unable to express themselves. We all have gags in our lives, things that pacify us. When I found music, however, my gags were torn open by the pacified ideas that I could otherwise not express. Music allowed me to communicate in a way that words could, and still can not.

An important message that The Savvy Musician successfully communicates is that being proactive in your music career will yield unsurmountable rewards. I absolutely concur. We (the musical community) can all generally agree that our journey through life is accompanied by our music. Rather, we are partnered in a great duet between us (the artist) and the art we yield. As a result of this mutual relationship between music and musician, I have come to realize that the limit of my future success is only determined by how much I limit myself. Ultimately, regardless of the luck we have during our careers, we are still the instigator and should certainly be a proactive one at that. A “savvy musician,” as it were, begets success and the reward reciprocates the amount of effort invested. As we develop our techniques and refine our musical skills, we build a relationship with our art, which for myself I see as an undying love.


I want to thank my peers in Topics of Music Business, particularly Marc Eaton, Ian Walker, and Josh (Boshy) Stevens for fueling conversations and ideas that procreated this article. You guys are the best friends a musician could have.

Thanks for reading Musik Modus Mémoires!