Monday, November 27, 2017

Art and Expectation

I was taking a music arranging class in a place where I was considered a lousy musician. No big deal; I was there to learn, not to impress. I plowed forward.

The previous summer, I'd arranged a piece for four trombones, and my trombone teacher (a veteran who'd toured with Buddy Rich and Woody Herman) was kind enough to record the result, multi-tracking all four parts. I played the recording for the arranging teacher, who suggested a different arranging approach, and had his four top trombone students perform both versions. He asked which I preferred, now that I'd heard my version played by really GOOD players.

He'd assumed it was me on the recording. Which had soured him on the whole thing. Because I'm a lousy player. But it wasn't, and, anyway, I'm not. As my mind processed it all (and the class awaited my response) I felt both surprised and disoriented to discover that I could empathize with his perspective while simultaneously knowing the truth. That said, knowing what to actually do with this comprehension was another thing, entirely. All that came to me was a near-overpowering yearning for a nice tasty beer.

Years later, someone (can't remember who) suggested I nix the amateurish paella-cooking video I'd posted here on the Slog. They assumed (as with the previous example, not without reason) that I'd whipped it up myself. In this case, I indeed have no talent for that sort of thing, but it was actually created by its subject - David Cid, one of his country's most respected animators.

I remember, as a kid, seeing Bob Hope on TV talk shows not saying one remotely funny thing, yet leaving audiences in stitches.

One more! Audiences, unfortunately, applaud after jazz solos. Even if you ignore this - even if you quietly spitefully reject it - you will notice - and at some level be manipulated by - the variance of enthusiasm from solo to solo. Same thing with those damned Facebook "like" counters.

I'd hate to see you injure yourself trying to tie together all these vignettes, but to me they're all part of the same crazy-making machine. I'd love to report that I've seen clearly through the miasma of expectations, and can navigate it all clear-headedly. But I've got absolutely nothing to offer here besides a nice frosty glass of hypothetical IPA. Cheers!

As I wrote earlier this week, "I keep my head down and do what I do." That's as far as I've gotten in all these many years.

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