When are too many bands a thing?

Six years ago, I wrote a post called the perils of having too many bands… and at the time I thought I was coming to an upper limit, but little did I understand our capacity to reorganize time when pressed. The image above is a collage of many of the groups I’ve had the pleasure of performing with last year, and doesn’t come close to including a number of pick-up or sideman gigs I took. In the well over 200 events I performed at in 2016, I played with nearly 40 different configuration of musicians and performers in dozens of genres.

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“If you try to please everyone, you’ll end up pleasing no one.”

The other day, I was thinking about the Aesop’s Fable, “The Miller, His Son, and Their Ass“, while I was reflecting on the direction my musical career has taken. This was after a nine-day stint of 23 performances across a variety of musical genres.*

You are surely familiar with the story–a miller and his son take their ass to the market to sell it and along the way they meet several individuals or groups of people who comment or criticize them on their trip. The miller and his son adjust their journey according the comments or criticisms: when told they should be riding the ass, the miller puts his son on the ass; when criticized for not respecting the aged, the miller replaces himself on the ass; when criticized for being lazy, the miller then lets his son ride behind him; and when told they could more easily carry the ass rather than have it carry them, they proceed to tie the legs of the beast and haul it around with a pole. As they cross a bridge near the town, the townsfolk laugh at the sight before them and the commotion frightens the ass which breaks free of the restraints and tumbles into the river.

The obvious moral of the story is that if you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 34,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 13 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

More popular than God. Or football.*

Proper Discord

A number of people have written to me over the last two weeks, asking why** I’d wade into a ridiculous debate like “Is classical music dead/dying?”

It’s not complicated. It’s because the ideas they promote do real harm. These dumbass articles make my job harder, and for no good reason. Commissions don’t get sponsored. Recordings don’t get made. Events don’t get coverage. Broadcasts don’t happen. Organs don’t get mended. Concerts don’t get booked. Startups don’t get funded. Music doesn’t get made.

It might seem like talking in dramatic terms about the challenges facing our industry would be the way to get people to take them seriously. In truth, though, the people who need to take these issues seriously are already doing it. Proclaiming “the end is nigh” just makes it harder for us to get anything done.

It’s really that simple. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve pitched…

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“Classical music is dead! No, classical music is in great shape! You know what? I don’t want to play for either team in this game.”

Black & White
Black & White

The title of this post is from a Facebook status on Anne Midgette’s wall (or timeline, or whatever FB is calling it these days). I responded with “Since it’s not a black an[d] white issue, you don’t have to play for either team. There’s always the middle ground grey area!”

False Dichotomy, Binary Fallacy, Black/White Fallacy, Bifurcation Fallacy, False Dilemma, Either/Or Fallacy–whichever of its many names we use it is one of the most pervasive biases in human reasoning. As you can see from my neat little graphic above, for any two options (that aren’t negations of each other) there are actually four outcomes. No matter how “opposite” they may seem to each other, you can only collapse to two outcomes if you have one option and its negation.

From the image it’s easy to see how the negation of both can simply be reached by having something that’s “red” which is neither white, nor black. The lower left corner is both white and black, which could be interpreted as grey, or as some logicians who deal with polyvalent logics interpret it, it could refer to the state of certain quantum mechanical properties such as the wave/particle duality or possibly Schroedinger’s Cat.

The state of Classical Music as a whole is somewhere in this grey area and only by highlighting some subset of it to create Straw Men parodies of the industry can you come to the conclusion that it’s perfectly healthy or rapidly approaching death.

I’ve dealt with this and other bias issues a couple of times in past blogpostsonce nearly three years ago–and don’t really want to re-visit it much here.  But sometimes I really do wish I’d followed through on my plans to go into Comparative Neurocognition when I took that break from music so many years ago…