I don’t dance, generally, in the conventional sense, but lately I really feel like that’s what I’ve been doing; a few steps this way, a few steps that way, moving closer, then farther way, first one direction, then another.
I’ve recently moved closer/towards the world in one way, and pulled back, withdrawing in another. I can’t say I feel unambiguously positive about either move, but I am glad I’m doing them. The harder question for me is, now what?
I stepped forward by deciding to participate in a new collaborative fan-inspired project from Imogen Heap. For her next album, Imogen has decided to release one song every three months over the next three years. You can read all about it on her microsite. The first song (the working title, #heapsong1, has since become Lifeline) has been written and recorded over the course of two weeks, with daily opportunities for fans, musicians, writers, visual and video artists to participate, from providing sound samples (or “seeds”), words, images and video clips that Imogen might choose to use in some way, to actually playing a solo on the song. Every day, she streamed a live video blog, discussing her progress, playing and showing what people have submitted and interacting with viewers via chat. Fans have seen and heard the song, the lyrics, the video, the sounds and production, the packaging—everything—develop, grow and change before their eyes and ears. We’ve given our opinions on what we’ve liked and didn’t like; we’ve even had running gags, like “selling my body” to the “effing pheasant.” (Trust me, you had to be there.)
About half-way through the two week process, she spent her vBlog talking about and playing the song in its current form, focusing on the “middle 8” (bars)—the instrumental section for which she invited anyone to submit a solo. Listening to the vBlog and the mp3 on the computer in the kitchen, an idea started to take shape in my head for a fretless bass part as I emptied and loaded the dishwasher.
The thing is, my head is easily the most musical part of me. I have always been able to dream up musical ideas that have been way beyond my own ability to perform. That was one of the main reasons I transitioned from being a musician to engineering and production. It was also key to why my musical partnership with Julie was so rewarding—we both had lots of great ideas, and each of us could make certain things happen, musically, that the other couldn’t—she could play it, while I could mix it, tweak it, effect it or otherwise bring it the rest of the way. The story of how I was drafted into playing bass will have to wait for another time, but even then, at the height of my meager musicianship, my enthusiasm, my ear and my intimate knowledge of the material from a producer/engineer’s perspective was what enabled me to rise to the occasion, not my chops. Now add over 12 years since our last gig, and you can imagine the strings of my bass weren’t the only things with a bit of corrosion.
But I have been playing, practicing and focusing on music more, since if I am ever going to release Julie’s record, I’m going to have to record new bass parts, at least for those songs whose “scratch” bass parts do not have sufficient spirit and enthusiasm to overcome their technical flaws. In service of this effort, I recently sold the fretless bass I bought to play with Julie’s band, in order to fund the purchase of a replacement with two critical features my old fretless lacked: 5 strings (I could barely get by using drop tunings back in the day—now there was no way) and lines on the fingerboard. (My fretless intonation was always questionable, and, well, it hasn’t exactly improved with age.)
I ended up spending most of the day on my idea. The thing is, it was neither a musically earth-shattering idea, nor was it a performance worthy of Immi, one of my musical idols. But many, though not all, by any means, of the solos that had been submitted some 6 hours before the deadline, were, well, lame. I mean, really lame. I knew that anything I did would not really be up to my own standards, and thus almost certainly not up to those of the artist herself, but I decided that actually doing this thing; finishing this and sending it off (literally) into the cloud (Immi uses an excellent sound and performance-sharing service called SoundCloud), was something I wanted and needed to do.
I’ve been having a lot of trouble finishing things, for a while now. What needs doing is almost always painfully obvious. Doing them has been more of a challenge. There’s the fatigue; there’s the sheer enormity of trying to do everything; and there’s the crushing endless mundaneness of so much of it. So I said, “Fuck it. I’m going to put this out there.”
Working on music is something that I’ve always done, wanted to do, and continued to do, even long after I was no longer trying to make a living at it. There’s a role that music-making needs to play in my new life, somehow, and this was one, limited, relatively easy way to take a step asserting that.
I also have gained a huge amount of inspiration from Ms. Heap. She is perhaps the most forward-thinking popular artist in the area of using the social web to connect with her audience, and is constantly coming up with new ways to expand those connections and weave them into more and more aspects of her creations and her career. From video blogging throughout the construction of her studio and the creation of her last album, to audience-sourcing the set lists for her live shows, to live auditions for local musicians to help her perform certain songs, to her savvy and still unassuming use of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other tools, she has set the standard for both innovation and, I think, how to live a sincere, authentic public life on the social web.
While I would never want nor pretend to aspire to her level of talent or success or celebrity, her use of these tools to connect with others in ways that have meaning and that promote greater understanding of each other and facilitate creative endeavors is something that I do very much aspire to, when I look at the giant question of what the heck it is I want to do with my life.
You can listen to my submission here:
All the other wonderful contributions are here.
Here is the “reveal” where Immi shows what she picked (*way* better than what I did, of course), though it evolved further as the work progressed, and at some point the Flumpet solo (yes, it’s a real instrument) was dropped for reasons I didn’t catch.
Of course, “finishing” this little thing was, in a way, a great way to avoid finishing (or starting) any of the “real” projects which are overflowing in my life right now, including musical ones. But there was something about the interactivity of this—the social aspect, which was motivating in a way most of my other “to-dos” are not. So therein may lie a clue to getting more things done in the future…
At the same time I took a step forward, out, into the world, I also took a step back.
That same day was the day I let my eHarmony subscription expire, and left less than a month remaining on my match.com subscription. Online dating and I are beginning a trial separation.
My ups and downs with online dating have been well documented, but lately the downs have been more consistent and have begun to fit into some depressingly consistent patterns. There were the “I had a great time let’s do this again soon” first dates followed by total radio silence. There were the emails simply never acknowledged, or the simple one-liners (“We are not a match.”) Oh, really.
Now, I don’t want to put myself up on some high horse. Like most people, I can look at a picture or read a profile and rule someone out in a split-second. Fair enough. But I don’t write that many, “Hi, I’m interested…” emails, and when I do, you can be sure there aren’t any huge, obvious deal breakers (“no beards,” “no kids,” “under 45 only, please”) that I’ve blindly overlooked. And given how far off base a lot of the emails ladies get on match (from the horror stories I’ve been told), I know I’m pretty far on the non-Neanderthal end of the spectrum. But, somehow, it seems perfectly OK to a lot of otherwise very nice seeming people (who, of course, all profess a desire for someone “open,” “honest,” “kind,” etc.) to just blow me off.
Then there are the people I know, outside of online dating, whom I have found on match. Despite what one might think would be a chance for at least a good laugh and at best an opportunity to think about someone in a new light, the reactions have ranged from a polite first date, followed by correspondence that best be described as, “You didn’t pass my ‘why bother’ test,” then followed by complete silence, to complete and total silence. Or the parent at one of the kid’s schools who, after what I thought was a friendly exchange of several emails, blocked me. These are people I’m friends with on Facebook—they say nice things about my posts, I say nice things about theirs, we wish each other a happy birthday. But it is as if the plane of match.com is a parallel universe, and any contact between realms would risk a matter/anti-matter annihilation.
I also have a newfound ambiguity to it all. I’ve met a couple of really nice people, whom I’ve seen multiple times. A couple of them, I count as friends, now, who knows what later. Fireworks didn’t go off when we met; hormones didn’t make us feel like we were 14 again, but we like each other’s company, and that’s fine. But there was another person who I considered in that same category, until she abruptly informed me that since it was clear there was not “chemistry” between us, that was that and I should have a nice life. My email reply (a more wordy version of “Whaaaa????”) remains unanswered. I mean, ladies, am I missing something here? Is there a “If you don’t at least try and rip my clothes off by the third date then I’m outta here!” rule that no one told me about? Sigh.
Last but not least, we have the widow(er)-phobic. I haven’t had many of these, though it could explain at least some of the uncommunicative ones. To be fair, I’m Facebook friends and have spoken on the phone with a very neat lady who is simply, well, wary. Can’t say I blame her, and I don’t. Someday, maybe, we’ll go on an actual date. Whatever. But another actually took it upon herself to write me, telling me why, specifically because of my widowerhood, she would not consider dating me. This was based on having dated another widower who “no matter how much he tried to convince me, or himself, that he was ready for a new relationship he just wasn’t.” (So, of course, that experience can be extrapolated to apply to all widowers, everywhere, for all time. Nice.) She finished with a bit of advice: “I hope you have done the grief work, not only for you but for the sake of your next partner in life. It’s a bit hard on those of us on the other end of things when there’s major work left undone.” (Because, of course, everyone ELSE has their “major work” all completed and put into a nice shiny box on the mantle.) Ah yes, the plight of the GOWs and WOWs. Now, where have I heard about THAT before?
So, I’m pulling myself back, putting myself not “out there” in this area. I’m still “looking,” I suppose, but maybe not “searching.” Everyone says, “Go do things you enjoy or are passionate about. That’s where you’ll find people who feel the same.” Which is great. Except after work, the house, the kids and the Grief Monster, I’m lucky if I have the time and energy to dig up a few weeds or meet some work-friends for happy hour.
But I also try to have faith in myself. My success (or lack thereof) in the world of online dating is certainly not a measure of my worth or value. I believe I make a great partner, but I’m sure as heck not for everyone, nor is just anyone going to be right for me.
An old boss of mine used to say the most annoying things whenever there was a problem, but they just keep coming up in my head, over and over:
“You knew this job was dangerous when you took it!”
“If it was easy, anybody could do it.”
Fair enough, Walt. Fair enough.
Besides, if the guy in this video can learn how to dance, I figure I can, too. I just hope it doesn’t take 700 years.