Category Archives: Performance

New Listen: PRISM Quartet’s ‘The Curtis Project’

prism quartet curtis project

 

Artist: PRISM Quartet
Album: The Curtis Project (2016)

PRISM Quartet‘s April 2016 release The Curtis Project is a collection of strong, mostly recent additions to the medium’s repertoire that explore many aesthetic avenues. The album is the product of PRISM’s 2012 residency with The Curtis Institute‘s composition department. All seven compositions are from Curtis-affiliated composers: two from faculty members (and Pulitzer Prize recipient) Jennifer Higdon and David Ludwig, and five from then-student composers Kat Souponetsky, Daniel Temkin, Gabriella Smith, Thomas Oltarzewski, and Tim Woos. All works were performed during the residency, at which time all but Higdon’s were premieres. The Curtis Project is PRISM’s debut release on XAS Records, the ensemble’s new record label.

Here, PRISM Quartet’s personnel is slightly amended:
Timothy McAllister – soprano saxophone
Zachary Shemon – alto saxophone
Matthew Levy – tenor saxophone
Taimur Sullivan – soprano (track 1 only) and baritone saxophones
Robert Young – tenor saxophone; substituting for Levy on tracks 12-19 (works by Souponetsky, Temkin, Smith, Oltarzewski, Woos)

These seven pieces are stylistically distinct from one another, all of which branch in different directions. And with three of the works having multiple movements, none of the album’s nineteen tracks are overly long. (Of course, multi-movement works are larger collectively. That said, the longest individual selection or movement is just over seven minutes, and it’s an outlier.) The musical diversity and brevity is noteworthy, as it can often seem that (speaking from experience) “New Music” recordings are geared towards like practitioners — new saxophone music is largely for other composers and saxophonists, etc. The Curtis Project, however, would be equally suitable as a performance program on a university campus, a concert hall for a general audience, or as part of a community engagement or school outreach setting.

The album begins with Higdon’s Short Stories, a collections of six programmatic movements lacking a defined order, which serves as a nice microcosm of the album as a whole. From the calm “Summer’s Eve” and serene “Lullaby” to the frenetic “Chase” and Pollock-inspired “Splashing the Canvas,” the quartet shines in the movements’ more traditional writing. Also, like much of the album, all four voices are given their time to shine both individually and as part of PRISM’s organ-esque blend, such as in the haunting “Coyote Nights,” or the energetic “Stomp And Dance,” featuring key-clicks and slap-tongue.

Ludwig’s Josquin Microludes offers a clever and sonically-intriguing reworking of Josquin’s Mille Regretz, with each of the five differing, near-schizophrenic movements being based on subsequent lines of text and melody. Listening in order, one eventually goes through the (barely recognizable) original. The sixteenth-century source material is interpreted through a twenty-first-century vocabulary, and in doing so Ludwig honors the stylings of both time periods. The fourth movement “Quon Me Verra Brief Mes Jours” highlights this juxtaposition, with hard-driving rhythmic sections alternating with a dream-like processional, giving way to the calmly soaring and dissonant finale.

Although the faculty’s larger works constitute half of the album, the students are by no means also-rans here — each of the pieces have something different to say and chart territory theretofore unheard. Named for a river in the composer’s hometown of Moldova, Souponetsky’s The Dniester Flow depicts the rushing rapids through hard-driving rhythms in the piece’s first half. These give way to more lyrical fare in the second half, during which the tenor, alto, and soprano seamlessly pass the ascending melody to one another until the rapids return at the end. As a matter of programming, this gives way nicely to Temkin’s Blossoming, for which the sound really does blossom out of silence. A full minute of blowing air gradually gives way to soft saxophone tones that build to full ensemble chords and cries of both woe and hope, eventually fading back to nothingness. The use of both “dead” air and semi-tones are tasteful throughout, giving Blossoming a fluidity that’s not often highlighted in keyed instruments.

Smith’s Spring/Neap programmatically engages the “extremities of tidal ranges”1, beginning with cacophonous runs and glissandi, likely depicting the competing gravitational forces between the sun and moon. This later gives way to deep, rich chords and blowing air, giving one the impression of calm night tides before the gravity pulls the levels higher once more. Olterzewski’s Toccata is somewhat reminiscent of its centuries-old keyboard namesake, at least in character, although the composer likens it to the twentieth century works for wind ensemble. The aggressive and accented mixed-meter “left hand” of the tenor and baritone saxophones provide a nimble motor atop which the “right hand” of the alto and soprano saxophones playfully melodize. It’s not completely segregated, however, as the tenor saxophone occasionally tags into the melodic fun. Woos’s whimsical 4 Miniatures closes the album. Though concise as the title suggests, the four brief movements are full statements in and of themselves, covering much terrain. The first movement is full of swelling phrases and restful chorales, while the second miniature features beautiful “glass-like”2 harmonies that I could put on repeat for hours. (Selfishly, I would love to hear a larger work from Woos in this style.) The aggressive bomb-like glissandi of the third movement jolt the listener out of the second movement’s placidity, giving way to the jocular closing polka of the fourth movement. Here, over the course of just a few dozen seconds, the saxophones seemingly grow annoyed with one another, stumbling along until closing in what amounts to a tantrum. Humor can be difficult to notate and execute, and both are tastefully done here.

The Curtis Project continues PRISM Quartet’s proud tradition of amassing new works for both the ensemble and the instrument’s repertoire at large. It includes a number of musically interesting and accessible works that display a range of styles and compositional approaches, offering both breadth and depth. The Curtis Project is an excellent first step for XAS Records, and I’m already looking forward to what’s next.

PRISM album link here
Amazon link here
iTunes link here

 


1. [Smith, Gabriella. The Curtis Project. Liner notes, p. 7]
2. [Woos, Tim. The Curtis Project. Liner notes, p. 8]

(Other PRISM Quartet reviews here.)

Pat Metheny’s ‘Hommage à Eberhard Weber’ Live at Detroit Jazz Festival

IMG_2116

Pat Metheny‘s Hommage à Eberhard Weber received its North American debut Monday evening in the Motor City. The new work, a mixed-media tribute to the German bassist featuring big band and sampled video, closed out the 2015 Detroit Jazz Festival on the main stage. Hommage was premiered in Stuttgart, Germany in January 2015 at a concert honoring Weber, which he attended, and also serves as the title track of the upcoming ECM release due out this Friday 09.11.15.

Pat Metheny, particularly over the last decade or so, has been treating listeners to new sonic adventures, be it with his symphony-length The Way Up for the Pat Metheny Group, his orchestrion project (both solo or incorporated into the Unity Group), and now this inventive big band composition. Weber, who’s been unable to perform since a 2007 stroke, sounds and feels musically alive and well in this new work.

On a selfish note, I was happy to have Metheny bring the name, image, and sounds of Weber to the Detroit Jazz Festival, which is often North American-centric (understandably so, to a degree) and doesn’t often feature the Northern European jazz aesthetic. I made the trek with friend, collaborator, and fellow ECM fan Matt Borghi. (We recorded some pre- and post-show comments and discussion for a forthcoming episode of his Sound Traveler Podcast due out this week. Link here.)

The piece is unique and its performance was unlike anything I’ve seen in a jazz setting. Analogous attempts have been made in other styles, particularly in Zappa Plays Zappa, which has featured Dweezil Zappa playing transcriptions of his father’s guitar solos visually accompanied by projections of his father executing the original. But that’s in more of a reproductive, canonical context. In Hommage, Metheny uses samples of Weber’s unaccompanied improvised solos as launching pads for both composition and improvisation, resulting in an entirely new work. (Rather than an orchestration of Weber’s ideas or something else similarly derivative.) Metheny writes in the album’s liner notes:

It came to me that it would be interesting to take the idea of sampling one step further; to find video elements of Eberhard improvising and then reorganize, chop, mix and orchestrate elements of those performances together into a new composition with a large projection of the Eberhard moments that I chose filling a screen behind us as we performed. It seemed like a new way to compose for me that would almost take the form of visual sampling.

Reading about it and seeing footage – my photograph above or the official video trailer below – don’t quite do it justice, as this is a composition that is meant to be seen as well as heard. Reading the descriptions, I was intrigued going into the performance, but what I saw was much greater than the sum of its already impressive parts. Metheny was backed by the Detroit Jazz Festival Big Band (featuring regional heavies) and shared the spotlight with vibraphonist Gary Burton, drummer Danny Gottlieb, bassist Scott Colley, conductor Alan Broadbent, and of course the footage, spirit, and sound of bassist Eberhard Weber.

The work is largely in four sections:
I. Emerging from silence, winds, cymbals, guitar, and Weber build thick sonic textures and dense harmonies, giving way to Weber’s plucked solo ostinato. The big band is then off at a healthy moderato, with guitar and vibes taking the melodic and soloistic reins. Even when quicker and rhythmic, the winds offer more textural than melodic support here.
II. Some building arco passages then transition to a more burning section, led again by a plucked ostinato from Weber. Here Metheny takes us into more “big band-friendly” territory, offering ample room for Metheny to shred with his trademark affected tone — it’s almost Pat Metheny Group Big Band featuring Eberhard Weber. The band transitions out of this part with the instrumental sections rhythmically punctuating against one another, eventually blending into the more textural elements from the beginning.
III. Weber & co. then lead us into a folk-like romp, with Metheny quickly strumming on the hollow body a la 80/81‘s “Two Folk Songs.” Here, Scott Colley shines in the spotlight dueling in call-and-response fashion with a digital Weber. And, amazingly, like the rest of this piece, it works. It doesn’t feel forced or like the band is “playing to a track.” It all melds together into one cohesive unit. A frenetic drum solo by Gottlieb then leads us to the final chapter.
IV. Much like the beginning, the big band is more textural here, while Weber melodically solos atop. The digital Weber has acted more as musical director and bassist until this point, but he’s the featured soloist to close, which makes this Hommage a very fitting and tasteful tribute.

Metheny mentions in the liner notes that he hadn’t scored for big band in decades. Well, could’ve fooled me. It’s a very well-written work. Furthermore, I can’t express enough just how well all the parts come together. Seeing and hearing Weber within the piece really made him feel like a genuine part of the performance. Bravo to Pat Metheny on a job well done.

The soloists and ensemble gave a commanding and cohesive performance. I could be wrong, but it appeared as if there was a quick skip/glitch in the video feed near the transition from the first to the second sections, but everyone quickly adjusted and got back on the same page. Perhaps it wasn’t a glitch and there was just a natural hiccup to overcome in the Weber track; hard to tell. (Speaking from my own experiences performing the music of Jakob ter Veldhuis, I can attest to the difficulty of performing composed works with tape, particularly when the samples aren’t always “exact” in certain sections.) The mix itself was mediocre at best, but that had nothing to do with the performers nor the composition.*

I’m very glad I saw this piece live, the performance of which I’m sure will be a rarity going forward. I really hope ECM considers releasing a video of the Eberhard Weber tribute concert from Stuttgart in January so that more people will have an opportunity to see this work as well as hear it. But until then, check out the audio, and the rest of the concert (featuring a host of other musicians including Jan Garbarek) when it hits the shelves this Friday.

*Having seen many DJF concerts on that same stage, I’m surprised that the mix wasn’t MUCH better. Quest, a quartet, was much louder than this full ensemble, for instance.

[Photo by yours truly]

Borghi | Teager at Muskegon’s The Block on Saturday 02.21.15

All has been quiet on the blog front this last month due to the wonderful new addition to our family. Regular posting should resume soon, but first a concert announcement:

This Saturday, I’ll be performing what I believe to be my first hometown show as a leader. I’ve played a number of fun (and occasionally featured) gigs in Muskegon over the years, but none of those have included my name in the top billing. This weekend, however, the Borghi | Teager ambient juggernaut will land in and sound throughout Michigan’s City by the Lake. The weather should hold for the evening, so please come out if you’re in the area. And don’t just take my word for it – we’re #1 is this weekend’s Top 5 Things To Do in the Muskegon Chronicle.

We’re performing at The Block, a wonderful, intimate venue opened by the West Michigan Symphony a couple years ago that offers up-close performances in myriad styles. Matt and I have long thought that our music is more akin to a listening space such as a concert hall as opposed to a rock club (even though we’re happy to play the latter!). Generally, for this type of music in that type of an environment, it’s been Philadelphia’s The Gathering or bust for us, and so we’re excited to have such a great opportunity close to home.

From the official press release:

Performance duo Borghi and Teager bring “jambient” music to a February performance at The Block in downtown Muskegon.

Matt Borghi (guitars, effects) and Michael Teager (saxophones, flute) are a recording and live performance duo focusing on improvised ambient, or “jambient,” music. The duo combines guitars, winds and electronics to make each performance a unique experience. The program starts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21. Doors and cash bar open at 6:30 p.m.

Matt Borghi is a sound artist, music composer, writer, but he claims that above all he’s a musical improviser, using his guitar in traditional and non-traditional means. His recordings have been featured on NPR, BBC and CBC.

Michael Teager is a Muskegon native and versatile musician, performing frequently throughout the Midwest in a variety of styles. He also serves on the faculties of Spring Arbor University and Michigan State University’s Office of Study Abroad, teaching each summer in Bregenz, Austria.

Saturday evening’s concert is titled “Soundscape. Improvised. Jazz.” When asked what audiences might expect form a Borghi and Teager concert, Michael Teager, who also regularly plays saxophone with the West Michigan Symphony, explained that the concert would be “a unique, contemplative evening of sound. Our music is too active to be considered traditionally ambient, it’s melodic and heavily improvised but doesn’t swing, and there are formal structures that constantly evolve.” Teager continued, “There’s something for everyone. We’ve also put together some visuals to make it a more immersive, sensuous experience.”

Overall, musicians Borghi and Teager are focused on the spontaneity of live performance and on taking the listener on a journey into sound.

Tickets for Borghi and Teager’s concert “Soundscape. Improvised. Jazz.” are $20 and available at the West Michigan Symphony ticket office: 231.726.3231 ext. 223; online at https://itkt.choicecrm.net/templates/WMSO/; or in person at 360 W. Western Ave. in Muskegon. For more information, visit www.westmichigansymphony.org/the-block.

Info:
When: Saturday 02.21 @ 7:30 PM (doors & cash bar at 6:30)
Where: The Block; Muskegon, MI
Tickets: $20, available here

“Making It” Up

A running thread through the last few posts (here, here, here), and occasional others throughout this blog (here, here, here, here), is that of the landscape and environment those of my generation(ish) and younger are facing. Gone – or at least fading away – are the “paths” (career or otherwise) that were supposedly ahead of us as we were coming up. It seems so, anyway. (And it was never going to be easy to begin with.) To echo author Bret Easton Ellis, as he put it so well: we’re moving from an age of Empire to Post-Empire. Now, there are certainly pros and cons to each, and I don’t even know if I fully believe that one is better than the other, but it can’t be denied that those big, shiny institutions (i.e., Empire, or, as discussed in my last post, the “real world”) are crumbling and we’re rebuilding a more fragmented cultural environment. Yeah, you can be a college professor (Empire), but you’ll likely be cobbling together adjunct or Visiting-Assistant-Instructor-Fellow-Lacking-Benefits work (Post-Empire). Gone are Mr. Big’s Six Album (and six figure) Deal record contracts given to only a select few (Empire), and everywhere are musicians with GoPros and MacBooks with a worldwide reach (post-Empire). You can ostensibly get your music to everyone right now, but do you actually expect to get compensated? Sure, there’s live performance, but that can also be a financial killer. And if not a killer, you won’t be saving for retirement. Speaking of which, I think we could put retirement in the Empire column…

Matt Borghi, my close friend and musical accomplice, happened to send me this article from The Atlantic on Monday, not knowing I had just posted a somewhat parallel (in parts) screed. Deresiewicz makes some good points, though I must admit that I didn’t walk away from it knowing what the overall thrust of the article was, if there was one. (Though, sometimes all you need is mention of entrepreneurship and declining superpowers.) Some of the thoughts were a bit bizarre – we’re beyond the age of the “great work”? I don’t buy that. Just because we don’t have as many powerful gatekeepers and curators as we once did doesn’t mean that the works aren’t being made. I would argue that it’s more of a problem of not being able to easily sift them out from all the others. Also, the author talks about the devaluing of the 10,000 hours concept. I don’t know about that. While he does have a point – and I’ve seen it firsthand – that connections can help one more than his or her work, most of the cream eventually rises to the top. (Even if eventually = after death.) The deep, substantial works are being made amongst the noise of the novelties surrounding them. And eventually the fluff will die away. And as far as depth vs. breadth, why are they mutually exclusive? As someone who has many disparate musical influences, I would like to think that such breadth is an asset in my hopefully one day making something with depth. Though, related to the 10,000 hours, I did ask on this blog over five years ago: For those with disparate influences (i.e., learning and become proficient in various and/or competing styles), is 15,000 the new 10,000?

Admittedly, this quick post may not have a point, other than to tie recent posts together and point to that Atlantic article. Ellis’s article on The Daily Beast is worth a read also. On a related note, I recommend this piece by Matt.

To close, the end of the first paragraph reminds me of a song by the long-defunct group in which I met Matt, The Elevator Conspiracy. Written shortly after the 2008 economic crash, we wrote and often played a sometimes-wailing-sometimes-spoken-word song in rehearsal titled “Retire the Empire.” We all really enjoyed it but I don’t believe we ever played it live. As much as we dug it, we just couldn’t get it to “click.” I have some scratchy recordings somewhere that I’m sure will never see the light of day beyond the band members. Though it was originally concerned primarily with the economy, it’s funny to think of how broadly accurate it was.

Making Up “Making It”

In most professions, but particularly artistic endeavors, the concept of “making it” looms large. However, what makes “making it” an especially frustrating goal in the arts is that the meaning is so vague and often almost completely subjective. So-called career paths in the arts are extraordinarily varied – there are as many options as there are practitioners. One person’s success is another’s stumbling block. My dear friend and kindred musical spirit Pat Harris writes well on this topic in his 12.20.14 blog post.

“Making it” has, for me, become more mythological than tangible over the last few years, much more of an abstraction than something measurable. Often you’ll hear or read in interviews artists saying something to the effect of, “At least I don’t have to have a[n office] job,” and that’s generally the accepted barometer. But I think it’s far more complicated.

The quick go-to answer, I suppose, is that if you “do music full time” then you’ve made it. But that can be very misleading, and ultimately it’s reserved, in the purest sense, for a fortunate few. On the surface, one can make all of their money from the saxophone, but there’s a wide gulf between making an living from playing your own music (or, rather, music of your preference) and paying your bills by freelancing, teaching lessons and/or classes, arranging, and occasionally performing and recording your own music (the latter at a loss, as you’ll finance it yourself). Add to that an anemic economy overall and a culture that continues to financially devalue music at an exponential rate and you have a recipe for disaster.

Enter academia. If one wants a life in the arts but the stability of income and benefits, then simply get a teaching job. More importantly, teach college. And make sure it’s a tenure-track position. The only problem there is that stable tenure-track positions are, at best, holding steady in the arts and, at worst, becoming an endangered species, a relic of the past much akin to VHS cassettes and rotary dial phones. More concerned with the bottom line, universities have (and continue to) become increasingly reliant on temporary (non-tenure), part-time (adjunct and fixed-term), and/or student (be it graduate or, in some case, undergraduate [!]) workers to fill the space once occupied by full-time faculty. All of this occurs against a backdrop of terminal fundraising campaigns, campus construction and beautification, and increasing entertainment and activities budgets. (And yet, all the while, the university has also transitioned away from a bastion of free speech and free thought and exchange of ideas into a stifling kid-gloves-only safe zone hesitant to push anyone’s buttons or challenge the status quo. But that’s a topic for another day and blog…)

That’s not to say that college positions don’t exist; far from it. I have friends and colleagues who have secured good jobs in the last couple years, but they’re definitely in the minority. And, for some of them, they’re so busy with their teaching, committee, and recruiting duties that they find little (if any) time for their instrument, manuscript paper, or research beyond keeping the rust off. As for the majority of those with advanced and even terminal degrees in the arts, they work in directly- or tangentially-related positions; some of them have gone into completely different fields altogether. Directly related positions would often be cobbling together enough adjunct work and private lessons to amount to a somewhat full-time income (without security or benefits — there’s no such thing as a paid sick day when running a private studio) via myriad part-time jobs. And adjunct work mostly pays a pittance, particularly considering the amount of work that goes into it.

I’ve worked (for separate institutions) both as an adjunct professor since 2009 and as annual fixed-term faculty since 2011. If I purely got paid for the actual hours I’ve put into both jobs over the past several years, then I could probably pay off a great deal of my mortgage lickety-split. Instead what matters is the credit hour, or how often I see the students face-to-face in the classroom. Small details such as lesson plans, continually creating and revising assignments, handling student and department email (with atrocious etiquette, by the way), grading (or, for you European readers, “marking”), and meeting with students outside of class are beyond compensatory concerns. Of course, I probably sound ungrateful in this context. That’s not the case, as I do very much enjoy teaching. At this point, I do it more because I get something worthwhile out of it than just a paycheck.

One possible side effect of teaching as one’s backup profession is that actually teaching can be seen as a hindrance to one’s own artistic endeavors or research. I know a few professors (both full-time and adjunct) who, at best, find teaching to be okay, and at worst despise it. Students can tell when a teacher doesn’t want to be there. It certainly makes a (detrimental) impact. So why make everyone else suffer along in your own personal drama?

Aside from teaching, aforementioned related positions could include those in arts administration, officially or otherwise. I know folks who do and don’t have degrees in Arts Administration, and sometimes it’s hard to tell who has (or hasn’t) which degree and how it’s helped. (No offense to AA-degree holders. Part of it is my own ignorance.) That aside, it could involve the dreaded “office job” related to an arts organization (i.e., concert presenter, symphony, etc.) or college or university arts department. On the one hand, one still has a job “in music.” On the other, they’re likely spending more time in Microsoft Office (Enterprise Edition, of course) than Finale. Having said that, it’s important to note that not everyone wants to actually perform. Many want to just be involved without being on stage, and this is a great way to do so. For what it’s worth, many of the people I know in this field enjoy their jobs.

Then there’s the dreaded nuclear option: selling out and “getting a [non-arts] job.” Welcome to the cubicle farm, please leave your soul at the door. Right? Eh, not really. Some jobs (and careers) definitely fit that description. Others don’t. For some, a 9-5 job (or the modern equivalent, since that notion is almost quaint now) is a way to have a stable income and security, allowing one to focus on their art in their own time. For others, it can be a death sentence. It’s all what you make of it.

Speaking for myself, I’m a bit of a hybrid. I do have a full-time non-arts job with salary and benefits. I’m fortunate that I telecommute and pretty much stick to my own schedule (within reason, of course). On top of that, I also teach (as is obvious throughout this post and the blog as a whole), both university courses and private lessons. And I perform and record regularly, and the music does well. The best part about it artistically, for me, is that I pretty much only accept the gigs that I consider are worth my time (i.e., I either want to do them or the price is right — fortunately both boxes are checked more often than not). I’m very busy, but I’m not the artsy albatross financially weighing down my marriage, as often seems to be the case. I’m artistically active and satisfied, and my wife and I are financially secure. Occasionally I briefly consider taking on substantially more private students, try to teach additional classes, and freelance more to “only do music.” But then I quickly realize that I’d likely be far busier, have much less income, be artistically deprived, and lack any security for me and my family should something happen to me. Other times I consider going back to school for my doctorate, which I may still do when I’m completely ready, but I won’t be doing with the sole purpose of landing a teaching job afterwards. The chances of that working out are quite small, and if it even worked out, it’d likely be at great financial cost. I feel like I know as many people with terminal degrees who have seemingly abandoned their field altogether as those who’ve been “hired in.”

[Even though it’s no secret, I can sense that my explicitly “outing” my work/life balance has caused a couple readers to condescendingly think poor guy, I hope he makes it someday. I hope the weather’s nice up there on Mt. Pious.]

We don’t lead an ascetic life, but my wife and I are far from extravagant. We are happy, have a house in a great neighborhood and community, and are preparing for an imminent addition to the family. These are choices I’ve made and am both happy with and proud of. How selfish would it be of me to take myself out of the income column to “chase my dream” when I’m actually living a version of it right now anyway? How would that be fair to the family? Some are find with a vagabond-like existence, but that’s not for me.

On a related note, I occasionally see colleagues my age or older picking up part-time temp jobs here and there to fill in the gaps when artistic work is light. That’s perfectly fine, but I don’t know how that’s any more noble than having a full-time gig somewhere. Apples and oranges. If anything, they’re equal.

Tangent 1: This is getting into territory that’s fodder for another post entirely, and that’s the concept of work. Artistic types (in my case, musicians) constantly pride themselves on the work ethic involved in studying a craft and the intellectual benefits of the arts. My social media news feeds are a steady stream of that and how today’s artists are so entrepreneurial. And yet, when asked about working a “real job,” one boilerplate answer is, “I could never do that [work an office/desk job]” or “I have no skills other than [art].” Well, which is it? Are you smart and take-charge, or are you incompetent and lack life skills or work ethic? Pick one. And then there are the folks who’ve never actually worked a minimum wage job (even in high school or college)… But I digress. Again: another post for another day.

Tangent 2: Part of my focus on this topic in my own thinking the last several months is that producing art requires MONEY, something that I don’t think really gets adequately addressed. In order to finance your composition, recording, show, painting, sculpture, novel, or film, you need some sort of income. Back to work: where does that money come from? A job? Selling your art? Contributions? A wealthy family or relatives? A sugar-momma/daddy? Yet another topic for another day. (I touch upon it here but hope to dig deeper down the road.)

Before veering too far off course, let’s get back to “making it.” So, on the one hand I’ve raised the soulless white flag of getting jobs and property. However, I’m artistically active both in my own community as well as regionally and nationally, I teach, and my recordings sell some and get airplay. (One feather in my cap is when I heard Jan Garbarek sandwiched between a couple Borghi | Teager tracks on the nationally-syndicated Hearts of Space, the program’s first episode in its over 1,000 dedicated the saxophone…) And, as I wrote here, Matt and I recently embarked on a brief but packed East Coast tour that resulted in a net profit. I don’t write it this way to toot my own horn, but rather to say that I’m “making it” in my own way. Just like those who only wield their instruments or paintbrushes, and those who teach. The question shouldn’t be “Will I make it?” but rather “Am I making it?” It’s of course a long game, and one should never rest on their laurels. But it’s important to realize that success comes in many forms, and to say that there’s only one way is almost like saying there’s no way at all.