Recently (a couple hours ago), over dinner, two dear friends with good and supportive intentions put the career screws to me over my apparent lack of motivation with regard to how to make money doing what I do: making music.
It is a difficult business to stay on top of, brutal at times, and hard to not feel defensive about when so many attempts have been made to make it, stay current, get by, retain one's passion- all with varying degrees of success. This would have to be the case when one has played and made music and (mostly) lived by it for something like forty years. By that time, it could be argued that with even a modest degree of success and minimal ambition, you will have been heard by millions of people- possibly millions and millions. It may not feel like a lot on any given day, but it is something.
And one persists, for a host of reasons ranging from having no other marketable skill to simply loving what it feels like to connect, to: oneself, an audience, an idea, other musicians, a sense of doing something because it is inalienably yours to do. There are so many ways to make it. Make it in the sense of having success, make it in the sense of creating it. And the world is daily filled anew with more musicians, better-skilled musicians, more creative, better-educated, better-connected, better socially-adjusted, the list of 'betters' is seemingly endless, possibly only exceeded by the number of those on the opposite end, the ones who gave it up for not managing to overcome any of the thicket of traps, detours, life challenges, merciless beatings of the self by the self, humiliations inflicted by the self and others (and upon others), and so on.
Considering all that, making music must indeed be something very special. It is. Should you be blessed with any sort of longevity, you will likely have experienced that specialness many times over, and if you have managed to gain perspective and insight through it, that is in itself a great thing. If you have done all that without succumbing to cynicism and rancor at least once, then you are probably a good candidate for sainthood, and most certainly a fool of the highest order: the one who keeps at it in spite of and because of all the previously mentioned snakes, one who remains humble in spite of the ladders. This was best put by Pablo Casals (I paraphrase), when asked what his (?) fifty-odd years of music making had brought him to: "I'm starting to get pretty good".
The discussion included lots of possible strategies and tactics, the one of framing I couldn't give a satisfactory answer to: What is the Genre of Your Music? It got under my skin- the discussion itself became a sort of background drone I multi-tasked while mulling over the question: what can you call it, anyway? Everybody's gotta have a name for it, or else how can you yata yata yata? And what in God's name does 'alternative' mean anyway? An alternative to being nibbled to death by ducks? What isn't an alternative in this world? How can you name what is mysterious and holy in your experience without somehow constraining or belittling it, or worst of all, being too clever by half and having the devil to pay for its being so presumptuous?
Some of the best stuff lives in the land of "I don't know". Eventually the Brain Storm blew over. What emerged was a term:
STATELESS MUSIC. It's unlikely to become The Next Big Thing but it could be a useful way of working. Rant over.
Prague, February 2019