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I live in Brooklyn, NY and I love it here.  I came here for my career in 2009 and haven't once looked back. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fame and success...

I had some more thoughts about fame and success versus the potential personal enrichment of a music career/hobby and wanted to articulate them. They were thoughts mainly continuing on about how fame is not the best goal for a musician. I suppose I should also qualify success, for one thing, since it's relative to one's own ideals. I mean the kind of success that is defined outwardly by society (i.e. making money and being stable) and not necessarily one's own personal ideal of success. Of course, I want to be that kind of successful, the success that says you acheived the goal you set out to acheive (in this case to write music and get it heard).

Anyway, I guess I'd be lying if I said I'd never imagined fame or even remotely fantasized about it. But I have to tell you that mainly, when I daydream about my music, it's typically just me enjoying what I'm doing, whether it be getting a job composing a film score or performing live with a band and really rockin' out. I think it's important in this kind of pursuit not to get caught up in the idea of fame.

Every time I finish a project, the question immediately becomes "what next?" (I seem so tireless, I know). I've noticed that I can tell when I'm getting caught up in the idea of being famous one day because my thoughts turn to what kind of musical endeavour will garner the most attention and make me the most money instead of what will I enjoy doing or what I have proven to be good at. These are all, obviously, valid concerns but in the end, I have to take a step back and ask myself, "am I enjoying doing it?" and, more importantly, "is it genuinely me?" More so than personal enjoyment, the notion of genuineness is increasingly important to me.

I think back on the days when I really wanted to be the lead singer to a band. I would write really horrible lyrics and was too squeamish to try and mold those words into some kind of vocal lines and sometimes too shy to coax my bandmates into playing the songs. Other times when I was attempting things musically that seemed fun or seemed like they'd be enriching: Trying to write atonal choral music in grad school, trying to write weird avant garde solo instrumental pieces in grad school and trying to busk in Prospect Park or singing at open mics in Cary, NC. None of these things are really me and I've decided I'm okay with that. Some of them were actual exercises in grad school to hone my compositional skills that just turned into informative episodes that helped me figure out what I didn't want to do. Others were probably influenced more by what I saw other people doing than what I really wanted to do myself. I can tell because I've caught myself doing this a few times and I finally just looked deeply at it. Those times I've wanted to try singing or felt I had to start a band that instant, for example, I'm quite sure most of those episodes happened after having seen a pretty good local band or upon hearing a good song and imagining myself playing it live with one of my old bands. I guess you could call it "rock-out envy."

Invariably, though, the music I would write (or attempt to write) after such an episode would come out feeling contrived and rushed. So perhaps, one needs other motives for wanting to create. Not just because it looks fun or because I want to be on stage again. Seeing a band playing and thinking, "I remember doing that, that was fun, I wanna try that again," is probably not a terrible reason to want to continue playing music. It can't inspire real creation though.

Nor can a desire for fame. I find myself quoting the great Henry Winkler these days and I'm going to do it again. "Do you need to do this thing? Or does it just sound exciting? Because if you don't then maybe you should just go sell Buicks or something." (Sidebar: when did I hear Henry Winkler say all of this? 7 years ago at Chapman University, Henry Winkler came to speak to a group of high school kids that I was assistant teaching during a summer film program run by Duke University. I was there, I taped the whole thing and man, do I wish I still had the raw Mini DV tape).

Do I need to do this? At this point yes. I can't imagine myself not writing music or doing something musical. The depression I went through as a younger adult was at its worst when I couldn't see for myself a future that contained music. When I was a year from graduating high school and the panic about what I'd do upon graduating set in, the only thing that popped into mind to do was to study music. I didn't even have a back up until I started my film major. When I was 11 I was listening to classical music and film scores and I think, then, I first hatched the idea to become a film composer. When I was 9, I picked up a Magical Musical Thing, a cheesy toy from the late 70's (By Mattel, I think), and took to it instantly, prompting my parents to buy me a piano, extricate me from Cub Scouts and get me into piano lessons immediately.

All of these things that led me on this path to where I am today were instances of genuine interest in playing or creating music. To taint that with a wish solely to be famous for what I do would be foolish. Fame couldn't be nearly as rewarding as creating music. Not that I speak from a great deal of experience with fame or anything. I can't say that it wasn't invigorating to have my music heard by forty or fifty people at my recital back in 2008...and how cool was it to have people tell me they saw my name on NBC 17 on the credits for REX on Call? And don't forget the handful of times I've been recognized at film screenings for my work scoring. But I can tell you that the most enjoyable experiences I've had with music have been the unstructured unseen improvisatory times. Playing and laughing with my band mates from Brilliance as a Fashion in the 10' X 20' aluminum practice space in West Greensboro as we jammed and tweaked our songs. Sitting in my dorm room Sophomore year, messing around with loop creation software and making songs to the utter annoyance of my poor roommate who had to listen to each loop cycle over and over as I honed the ideas. The summer after 8th grade that I spent carrying my new electric guitar with me just about everywhere, practicing chord changes and learning new songs. Or just sitting at my piano, on any given day, with the window open solo improvising, losing track of time. This is why I do what I do.

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