This is abrupt and surprising for me. I thought I would keep doing this off of the bang I got from each one, even though I also got a good amount of worry out of each one. It takes some skin to create a persona and speak through it when you’re not entirely sure on what you and “he” agree. But that’s exactly the kind of thick skin that I thought I needed, so it went on.
I’m not giving up, not at all. I’m just realizing more clearly how exactly this particular three-inch-by-three-inch space fits into the bigger picture. I was going to say “master plan” but then thought I might not be taken seriously. I still may not, but I won’t have brought it about myself.
“Brought it about myself” is exactly what I’ve been questioning all along. That a version of art would knowingly exclude, would create an indecipherable message. I followed suit. And I see it, and I’m going to back off and say why, and maybe if this works as best it can the process by which such things could happen becomes clear, and we can tell the difference between what is authentic and what is being carried for fear we might drop it and not care enough to stop and pick it up. (Then we think about what else we could have been carrying, the time lost, the lightened load that would have given us a little breathing room.)
The Record editorial staff was always a little queasy about this, because something about it came across as disingenuous. Fake. Judd let it go on, in part, because we’re good friends but also in part because he might have believed that I’d eventually get somewhere with this. That somewhere would not be good journalism. That somewhere would be good music, or beyond that, just good art?
So I planned, however subconsciously, a small invasion. An aggressive takeover of sorts. I started on Dec. 12, sending on an evening much like this one a message of gargantuan proportions, during which I made a statement. Mission statement. Manifesto. And then I lifted a catch phrase from that message and made it the title of a column in the Record. And I started talking about things that I cared about, and I did it in a way that would include people other than those who know the code on the computer room in Bernhard.
So someone who got my first message recognizes the title from that random funny email from that guy, and they read on, and they hear about music, spoken about as if it is alive, as if we really do care that much, and in a way that they can approach and understand, that might make them laugh or that they might appreciate for its irreverence. And however tiny, there’s a certain buzz about the thing. And then it gets a little louder when Swan and Kenric and Josh get the headline, we see if there were some people we might have missed the first time. And then there’s a captive audience, and I am on the line. At this point you are midstream in my first real risk.
I used to write music for whoever I knew would come and listen, and they came on the grounds that it was me up there trying to do something, not that whatever it was that I was doing could stand alone. And I imagined that the thing to do was make something so good that it would stand alone, that the safe crowd would come and say “wonderful!” but I would be able to disregard their flattery because the objective crowd was there too, I can prove it through getting into Juilliard, or through this prize, record contract, award. I can prove it through surviving the test of anonymity: its worth conquers its obscurity.
I’m not able to believe in that idea anymore. I’m not trying to make something so good that it shatters the moment that brought it about, that it disregards the people I’ve been walking past every day, during every phase of making the thing I’ve been making. “Safe crowd” is not a pejorative; it simply acknowledges that we are sharing a particular space at a particular time, that I’ve made an effort to articulate that condition, and that it does me no good in an empty room. I worried that saying so would compromise the thing’s integrity. Now I think that this invitation, this acknowledgment that I need to make an invitation as part of the project, is exactly the source of whatever integrity the thing might be able to claim.
You can no longer listen objectively to the music. It automatically means something more than it itself. It is in no way autonomous from this effort. It is, in fact, probably lateral to this effort, probably just a symptom of it, just one of the vehicles through which I might embody this effort, bind it to space and time. So there’s something to hold your focus on the real aesthetic object that surrounds it. If you come, and they probably won’t print the date here, and that’s reasonable, so FIND OUT, you will be in the thick of it.
That’s what I’ve been trying to get at all along: that one has to listen at the moment at which the thing is perfectly contemporary, when all forces external and internal combine and bring it into being. There’s a difference between an art that tolerates inclusion and one that derives its very significance through that inclusion. The orchestra will play the score; that’s only one event in the series of which this has been a part. A full hall creates the required sonic space, for reasons that have little to do with vibrating strings.