I’ve had lots of interesting musical experiences over the years and I guess that hasn’t changed recently. I was musing about the interesting weekend I had and thought that it had taken the cake. As I posted as a facebook status, “What a weekend–saw/heard two things I never thought I’d see: Jewish Cowboy musician and Tribal Bollywood”, and as I’m coming down from those experiences, and as I slowly migrate a lot of my old videos and cassette recordings to digital I’m coming to realize how par for the course experiences like last weekend have been.
In a way, things are still the same. Same struggles, same fortunes and same defeats. For the past year or so I’ve felt as if I’m living in my own artistic vacuum–not because nothing is happening around here so much as there is so much happening and so very inefficient ways to know about them! At the same time I’m working on so many different projects that I’m flooded with stimuli.
And it’s not just the active performing projects–though having nearly a half dozen groups with which I am performing isn’t too little. It’s not that at all–it’s getting what’s in here (my head) out there (an audience). Doesn’t matter how odd or mundane the project is, it’s still the same issue. Though with my brother’s passing a few months ago, some of that struggle is starting to feel more bittersweet if only because I’ll never get to share any of the new projects with him. Maybe in the next life.
At the same time, I question how relevant most of my current projects are to me. It was the same question I had right before I pretty much quit doing classical music (though I’ve obviously come back to that recently). I suppose that I’m finding how little I care about certain musical activities and now have the experience to understand that I just don’t have an infinite amount of time to pursue each and every project no matter what it’s purported worth.
In some ways, though, I think having far too much passion for something can get in the way of getting something done in that particular field (while also recognizing that in many cases it is precisely that passion that “gets things done”). It probably has something to do with Thomas Edison’s insight “Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration”–no amount of passion is going to overcome the work that needs to be done to realize a goal.
All of this is coming to a head after the many life changes I’ve recently had (another thing that often happens to folks–namely change in priorities due to life) and as I start to think about what my life’s “Mission Statement” is. In other words, what is it that makes me tick and keep going.
I’ve come to understand that I feel passionately about helping underserved groups. This is just an extension of my general tendency to help folks that simply need some help. But it’s also an extension of my own personal understanding about what it’s like to grow up a minority in country that is primarily a different ethnic majority. How that translates into my being a performer is that I’m much more interested in, say, playing music for groups of folks who would not otherwise get many opportunities to hear the kind of music that they prefer rather than to play music for groups of folks who have many times more choices for their preference range.
In other words, I’d much rather be playing Arabic music, or Serbian music to, say, Anglo-American rock music. Or I’d much rather be playing new compositions, or works written by living composers than so-called masterpieces–the war-horses–written by long dead “white” men.
The other part of the “Mission Statement” deals with education. By presenting the works publicly, there are abundant opportunities to help folks who may not necessarily be a part of the groups the music is associated with to understand a little bit about something that isn’t so much a part of mainstream American culture, but is still a part of American culture if only because not everyone comes from, say, an ethnic group that that is so intimately tied to mainstream American culture.
In other words, American culture never was the unambiguously hegemonic cultural machine that has the absolute acceptance and universal appeal so many folks seem to think it does to the point that they cannot imagine how much other cultural arts affect Americans’ lives.
The last part of the “Mission Statement” is about giving folks the courage to not give into the pressure of mainstream American culture. It’s related to the phenomenon in psychology called “disinhibitory contagion” which basically says that often people are afraid to assert their difference when a peer group (or simply the group in proximity) chooses amongst their preference. Sometimes this gets put into the rhetoric of, say, minorities having role models in particular fields which make them far more likely to choose to be in that field than if there weren’t any role models (that the individuals identify with) in that field.
It’s a relatively robust social psychological phenomenon and shows how social inertia can keep people from, well, being themselves. I remember how as a child, since there was no one I could talk to about the Thai music I grew up listening to, I just didn’t bother to talk about it–at some point, just to help myself fit in a bit more I turned to Western pop music just to have a way to relate and interact with other kids.
That pretty much sums up the why and what of my personal “Mission Statement.” Of course, now the issue is how to share that with the public world on my website. Again, the presentation issue–a blog is a little less formal in some ways, so it’s not as big an issue to ramble a bit here about this, but if I want to seriously re-tune my website to help me achieve some of the things I would like to do, then I suppose it’s time to get to work on making that 90 percent perspiration!