As a creator I’ve always found it perplexing that I can create quality works of art and yet fail to get any attention from them.  If my song is great, shouldn’t it change the world?  What’s Bruce Springsteen got that I haven’t got?

I’ve spent the last thirty years learning how to write for the orchestra.  Considering that I’m probably never going to hear any of my orchestral pieces performed, it seems pointless to keep studying.  But it just taught me a surprising lesson.

Three Lessons Learned on Ice

 

The last time I went ice-skating I must have been 16 years old.  I never liked it, was never good at it.  I wasn’t eager to go when my boys asked me to take them on Saturday.

 

It was either that or watch them jump around at Sky Zone 45 minutes away, so I bit the bullet.  We drove down to Atlantic Station.  I got skates, put them on, and stumbled onto the ice.

 

The experience taught me three things.

My life now is better than it’s ever been.  Family, professional, personal.  For the first time in my life that I can remember, I can honestly say I’m happy.

 

It scares me.

One of the saddest facts of my life is that I do not look as cool as I feel.  I generally believe (on my good days) that I am incredibly charismatic.  Yet it’s been my experience that people who don’t know me tend to think I’m fairly ordinary.

 

Of course, once I do my thing folks tend to come around.  Doing solid, reliable work is the main reason.  Beyond that, the most important thing seems to be eye contact.

 

At some point in the last few centuries, some of us got this idea in our heads that music should be worshipped.  We started by worshipping musicians, especially composers like Handel, the first composer to be famous for being famous (he has remained famous because he’s great, by the way).  Then, because music notation improved, we began to worship pieces like Beethoven’s late String Quartets.

 

As the recording industry developed, we even started worshipping performances: legendary captured events like Robert Johnson’s first blues recordings, Duke Ellington’s performance at the Newport Festival, and then manufactured performances done with the help of the studio, from “Stairway to Heaven” to Glenn Gould’s wonderful Frankenstein-monster recordings.  A cappella choral, popular, “ethnic” music that used to be seen as “not serious” began to be worshipped too.  Is all of this okay?

I just returned from Jerusalem where I gave a presentation on music and math notation.  One of the things I presented was how we understand music by relating the moment we are in to moments that came before, and moments that are yet to come.  In this sense, music is a kind of four-dimensional object which moves us into imaginary spaces.

 

It’s somehow appropriate that I was asked to present this topic in Israel, where I have never been before, never thought I’d see, but have always been expected as a Jew to someday go. 

I get tired of solving problems.  I try to avoid them.  I try to avoid getting into them at all.

 

That may actually not be the best strategy.

I both love and hate Mozart.  So much of his music is so very astounding, in its breadth, its difficulty, and the complexity of its construction.  From my perspective, though, there is a difference between his best and his run-of-the-mill great that says something about the man, and about us as lovers of the man.

When I don’t get any feedback from the people with whom I’ve shared my creative work, it can hurt a lot worse than when they tell me they don’t like it.  I need the feedback to get better, but asking repeatedly for it just alienates them.  Over the years I’ve found ways to better understand and manage this unavoidable disappointment.

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