About four days ago, I started learning Csound, basically a programming language for sound synthesis. Two days ago, I ordered Producing In The Home Studio with Pro Tools on half.com. Later in the day, I put in a call to a guitarist I found on Craigslist who was supposed to give me guitar lessons in exchange for piano. This morning, I picked up Grout and Palisca's A History of Western Music and thunked it into my backpack.
I'm not trying to pat myself on the back here - far from it. I'm taking a look at what underlies this behavior. Now, some of you may know that I fancy myself a musician of some sort. I sang in choirs all my life, I majored in music in college, I play piano in Freestyle Love Supreme, I put down some hip-hop classics with Lin-Manuel, I try to play jazz, I try to write songs, sometimes I try to make drum and bass, I gush about the musical flavor of the season (it's Prince right now, in case you hadn't noticed), I sing R style nonsense hooks, I identify with pretty much everyone and everybody.
And what the hell do you do with that? The first time I played with Freestyle Love Supreme, I had to be coerced because I said, You know Lin, I'm not really a piano player. But I went down there, and I did it, and you know what, 9 months later, I'm still not a piano player. But I'm getting pretty decent at whatever it is I do down there.
That first night, before I walked onto the stage, Two-Touch took one look at me and said "Arthur the Geniuses," a name that has stuck with me ever since. But I tend to view it as a sort of ironic name. As a sort of mockery of itself. Not that it was by any means intended this way, but to me it signifies my status as a musical jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none.
Here's what it boils down to for me: common wisdom dictates that when you have a natural talent for something that you really enjoy doing, you should do it. I'm on board so far. Doin' the music thing, somehow someway. But what happens when that thing forks off into a thousand different roads? How the hell do you know which way to go? If on Monday, I want to be Keith Jarrett, Tuesday I want to be Squarepusher, Wednesday I want to be Prince, Thursday Rufus Wainwright, and Friday Gustav fucking Mahler, when I get up in the morning on Saturday and sit down to make music, where on earth do I start? When in the afternoon I decide it's time to practice, well, what the hell do I practice? Where does one begin?
How do you make these decisions? How do people know, when faced with many viable options, which one to choose? Or do you just take them all?
I mentioned to Carlos the other day that, at the rate I'm going, it would have to be at least a good 5 years before I'd have enough of an understanding of all the things I'd like to understand musically to be truly proud of the music I'm making. Rationally, I suppose I can accept that. Emotionally, I absolutely cannot. So what does a person do? Choose one - pigeonhole oneself into an instrument or a category and focus on that to the exclusion of all else? Continue spidering and just never really feel ownership of anything? I just find it hard to envision a day when someone says "So what kind of music do you make?," and I'll actually be able to give them an answer. I suppose I'd prefer to give them a CD. But how will I know what to put on it?
Now before you all say, just quit your whining and do it, whatever needs to comes out will come out, or other such stuff, I have to say that it's just not that easy. Sometimes what wants to come out is a string quartet - once I hit a musical wall, I've got to work on my string-writing; or if I hit a technical wall, I've got to learn more about my sampler. Sometimes it's a series of beeps, drum noises, and whistling sounds. Gotta figure out how to make those. More and more often recently, it's been very guitar-oriented stuff - gotta learn to play the guitar better, at least well enough to play the lines I want to get down. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Something is clearly wrong-headed in my thinking here. But what? Anyone have brilliant advice to tear down everything I've just said? Anyone?