Keep on keepin’ on

18 06 2014

I am a terrible, terrible guitar player. It’s why I keep playing.

Makes sense, right? Why do something well when you can suck?

I’d rather not suck. I’d rather that everything I do, I do well.

I’d also like to do more, and to do more is most often to do what I don’t know how to do.

Which means I’ll be terrible when I first do it.

Now, I keep playing because I’d like to get better, because I think I can at some point do it well. I didn’t re-up with the Gotham Rock Choir because I wasn’t convinced that more practice would make me a sufficiently better singer. It’s one thing to be terrible on the way to getting better, but quite another to be terrible on the way to mediocrity.

Rather takes away one’s motivation to practice.

I doubt I’ll ever be great on the guitar—that fucking F chord—but with practice I am improving, enough so that I can gull myself into practicing even more.

So, at some point, I’ll be merely terrible, then mediocre, and then all right. I don’t know that I’ll ever get beyond all right, but, for now, it’s enough to know that I can at least get that far, and that it’s just possible that I could, someday, be good.

Time to try something else to be terrible at, then. I’ve long wanted to learn French. . . .

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All things weird and wonderful, 36

8 01 2014

Why do we sing?

Why do we dance? Why paint and hop around and declaim in pentameter and chop stones into bodies and trees into ravens and how can people become so naked in themselves so as to become someone else, in front of god and everyone?

There were times watching some of the would-be soloists in the Gotham Rock Choir that I was embarrassed at how they let themselves just sing—just sing!—and let the song cover every missed note and skipped tempo and just, just sing.

And then I would be abashed, for so missing so much.

I don’t understand why we do this: let ourselves go in front of one another. I don’t understand why we sing and dance and conjure beauty and sorrow out of the rough leavings of this small world, I don’t understand this at all—except to know that I am moved by these conjurers, and their conjurings.

When I say there must be something more I don’t mean magic or angels but these conjurings, the way we take what we’ve got and make something other, something more, than what was there before.





Just sing

7 01 2014

The great Gotham Rock Choir experiment: how’d it go?

I had fun. There are some truly terrific singers in the Choir—some are folks who came to New York to do theatre, got sidetracked (by the need for rent money) into straight jobs, but who still want to perform, others who happened to discover that they could really sing—and by the time of our performance, in mid-December, we sounded pretty damned good. And, quite apart from the singing, the people (altos, represent!) are pretty damned great.

I’m glad I did it, but I won’t be doing it again. I’m just not that good.

This isn’t a professional choir, and it’s not as if I’m tone-deaf, but I was rarely comfortable with my voice. It got better over the course of the cycle—my range was stretched in both directions—but I couldn’t count on my voice locking into the groove. If I sat near stronger singers, I could glide in alongside them, but my voice on its own couldn’t be trusted.

Which really sucks. I could hear the way it should sound in my head, but what came out of my mouth was just. . . eh.

And that bummed me out. I want to be good, and I’m not.

So no more GRC for me, at least as a participant. I did say that maybe I’d try to rejoin again in the summer, but that’s a long shot. I don’t think my voice will get strong enough for me to say, ‘Yeah, I can do this.’

Of course, I did do this, and I’m glad I did. I hope to stay in touch with folks from the Choir, and I’ll happily sit in their audience.

But onstage again? I don’t think so.





All I ever needed was the music, and the mirror

16 09 2013

When I was a young ‘un I was all about performing.

Give me a stage and I’m on it, a light and I’m in it, and a chance to shine shine shine, and I’m takin’ it. A full-length mirror in my bedroom, a stereo, and a balled-up fist were my substitutes for the stage, the orchestra, and the microphone I wanted more than anything.

When I was pre-teen, it was all about Hollywood, but a bit of adolescence and I turned east, toward New York and the theatre (which was the genesis of my desire for New York).

Theatre in high school provided some of my best memories; it was also the peak of my performing days. I was at best competent, something which I had figured out even then, so while I very briefly flirted with the idea of going into theatre (in terms of considering whether or not to apply to Northwestern), once I decided on Madison, it was clear I’d major in political science, as a prelude to a career in journalism.

Funny thing about print journalism: it is a backstage activity. Yes, television is now clogged with scribe-pundits, but back in the olden days, journalism meant print (tv was something else entirely), and any fame would be confined to a front page byline on a national paper.

The jazz of journalism for me, though, was even less the bylines (tho’ that mattered: I still remember my first headline story, on a strike by the TAA, the grad student union) than getting the next day’s news the night before, and taking part in churning events into news.

We weren’t the story, but we wrote the story, and I decided I liked that more than anything.

Skip forward 25 (or so) years, and I still love that backstage churn. And while there is a performative aspect to teaching, outside of the classroom I am not only not interested, but dread taking center (or even side) stage.

Which is why I joined Gotham Rock Choir. Of course.

Yes, a big piece of this is kicking myself out of my rut, but the GRC provides something more: active discomfort with the activity.

Oh, Absurd, you’re saying, that makes so much sense: of course you should choose to do something which you won’t enjoy.

Well, that’s kind of the point. It’s one thing to get off my ass to do more of the things I’m used to doing, but quite another to push myself to see if I can get easy with something which makes me uneasy. And it requires a commitment, which just magnifies the unease. . . so, y’know, perfect.

If I really don’t like it after this cycle (which ends in December), I won’t re-up. But if the experience doesn’t kill me (which it won’t), maybe I’ll be willing to try something else, discomfort be damned.

If I want there to be something more, then I have to try something more.





Sing! Sing! Sing!

4 09 2013

I’ve been trying to change my defaults—at least, that’s been my story.

A while ago I declared I would make the attempt to get my ass out of my desk chair and into the city, that instead of offering excuses for my nos (noes? no’s?), I’d just say yes.

It’s worked in all kinds of small ways (especially when it involves meeting friends at a bar), but it hasn’t led to any kind of ongoing commitments.

My friend E., to whom I had mentioned my (honestly, fake) desire to say yes more often, had the temerity to take the idea and run with it. Let’s do Gotham Rock Choir, she said!

Um, okay, I said. What it is?

A choir! In New York! That sings rock songs!

Um, okay.

It’ll be fun.

Um, okay.

(Un)fortunately, we weren’t able to make it into the winter/spring round, but E managed to partake of the summer round. I had to teach at night (when they rehearse), so, darn, I couldn’t do it.

E. didn’t really like it at first, but, better woman than I, she stuck with it, and ended up having a gas. I’m going to do this again, she said. You wanna?

Uhhh. . . .

Come on! It was fun!

Uhhh. . . .

Just go to the first rehearsal, see if you like it.

Oooookaaaaayyy.

And  I went. (And she went. . . cf 5:28.)

And it kicked my ass.

I had a decent enough voice when I was younger—nothing special, but enough to carry a tune in high school musicals—but even that mediocre decency dropped with disuse. I used to be able to nail some very low notes, and now, pfft, now my voice bottoms into flatness.

The other folk in the choir? Not flat. Pretty damned good, in fact.

So I was thinking, Ohhh, man, do I really want to do this? I’m not very good, my interest in performing died with my youth, and man! a commitment!

And then a bunch of us hit a nearby bar and I was able to talk with some smart and funny people and I thought, Hmm, hanging out with these folks wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. And, as I told one woman, Yeah, this kinda kicked my ass, but given that I can be real bitch sometimes, it’s probably not the worst thing to get my ass kicked.

So. I have to decide by next Tuesday whether to go all in.

We’ll see.