28 October 2013

All Ages

Another point brought home by regular attendance at The Blue Whale: young people are capable of making great music, prodigies can sometimes live up to their hype, but it takes some old motherfuckers to make really timeless shit.

I myself was always an outlier without ever threatening to rise quite to the level of prodigy. I was also, if I don't say so myself, unusually level-headed about those kinds of things, and I generally got good advice and generally took it appropriately to heart. Where I and those I was immediately surrounded by failed, however, was in neglecting to accept college as a mere drop in the proverbial bucket of lifelong learning and evolution. Perhaps part of that was not knowing enough to see that four years was an inconceivably small amount of time in which to implement my conceptions, to say nothing of those I might have later. Being unusually facile at jumping through all the right hoops certainly hurt my chances of realizing this sooner. And yet the world, both within and without academia, seemed to no less than expect this from me and everyone else in the pipeline.

It took a healthy distance in both time and space from my college years for me to fully appreciate what a knot I had tied myself into during that time. It was a difficult, sometimes painful process to untie that knot. Once I decided that I could not possibly practice four hours a day without making unacceptable compromises in all the other musical areas that interested me, the physical dimension of brass playing became a major concern for me in a way it had never been previously, a double-whammy since I therefore had no experience dealing with it as such. Everything I knew about the tuba, myself, and the space where the two meet was based on a limber 20 year-old body and an even more voracious and self-motivated spirit. This has been its own adventure from which I am only now showing the smallest signs of emerging; even so, if it's possible to have been even slower to anticipate such changes in other areas, the conceptual area is just that place. It's hard to understand why I didn't stumble on certain ideas sooner...except that it's really not that hard at all. I didn't know enough, for one, but it's not just about knowing: doing matters too, and while it's possible to outpractice and outstudy your peers at an early age, I think it's much harder to accelerate the process of conceiving, realizing, curating, and reflecting, the process that drives artistic maturation not just internally but also in developing and understanding one's relationship to the world into which the work is to be released. And as any good constructivist would hasten to point out, even as I claim irreverence for such relationships to external forces, that in itself is a relationship I had better understand thoroughly before anything meaningful can come of it.

I have heard a number of young geniuses recently, players to whom I would be hanging on by a thread were I in their bands, and who are clearly much more than mere soulless technicians or stylists; and yet the old masters clearly have something more. They still have all the technique and vitality, but conceptually they are miles beyond musicians their children's age. And when you put it that way, who could really be surprised?

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