29 May 2016

A Further Thought on Funny Clothes

Even as an avowedly extreme case of the self-reflective introvert with a generous heap of "uncompromising" artist sprinkled in to taste, I have often found it much easier during my first decade and a half of (semi)professional musicianhood to make peace with the various musical compromises which have been foisted upon me than I have with the sartorial ones which have been attached to them.

My parents' longtime friend Gail Olszewski earned a DMA at the U of MN just as I was matriculating there at the undergraduate level and subsequently became my go-to pianist for the myriad hoop-jumping-through rituals of Classical Music school. She therein imparted to callow young Stefan quite a few pieces of seasoned practical wisdom, musical and sociomusical alike. One in particular which stuck with me for its concise irreverence of those pesky social ties which Christopher Small and his pesky ilk like to posit as central to the art form, and also for later enabling me to explain to a perplexed roommate why my degree recitals cost money, was this: (s)he who chooses the music writes the check.

Compromising or otherwise, it is of course no small personal or practical accomplishment for any musical performer subsumed within today's ruthless cultural economy to be on the receiving end of such choices (and checks) with sufficient frequency as to be justified in calling this exchange their profession. To choose the music you want to play and get paid to present it is virtually unheard of, to the point that when people ask me what my "endgame" is I have taken to substituting some other more realistic goal simply to avoid coming off as delusional and/or overly self-absorbed (which as a self-reflective introvert of course I am). That being as it may, I am beginning to wonder if gaining the privilege of dressing myself as I wish at all times, no matter the music I am to be performing nor whom is writing checks to whom, may in fact be not just an equally strong indication of professional success and self-determination as is the content of the music itself but in fact an even stronger one.