There’s a used record store in Albuquerque—I know, a used record store, how wonderful—called WE BUY MUSIC. I drove past it the other day and for some reason the claim on the sign seemed suddenly outrageous, like calling your store WE BUY CLOUDS or WE BUY FIRE or WE BUY FRIENDSHIP.
What if music is not a physical thing at all but a process? Or a type of relationship? A way of being in a room?
In Banff in 2010-11 I worked with master music presenter David Pay, who founded the concert series Music on Main in Vancouver. One day someone mentioned performers making excuses for subpar execution, suggesting that if a concert doesn’t achieve liftoff, after all, it’s “not the end of the world.” David disagreed. People come to you seeking… well, what, exactly? Entertainment? Distraction? Relief? Catharsis? Transcendence? Regardless, you have an opportunity to create something for them, and if you fail to achieve that, it kind of is the end of the world. (Of one possible world, anyway.)
I’ve tried to take this responsibility seriously, and it’s shaped how I look at any performance, regardless of when, where, or for whom. Whether the audience is 200 people or 2, the responsibility is unchanged.
Last night I played a couple keyboard solos on the Rhodes as part of Chatter’s series at Dialogue Brewing—Alvin Lucier’s Nothing is Real and Bunita Marcus’ Julia—and joined the group for David Lang’s exquisite Death Speaks. Performers sometimes have issues making themselves vulnerable in front of an audience. It wasn’t until today I realized the real vulnerability is on the other side of the proscenium. These people have come to you, seeking… well, what, exactly? They might not even know. But they’ve come, they’re here, they’re looking for something good. They’ve offered their time and attention. That is trust. That is vulnerability.
That’s the responsibility. That’s the relationship. The way of being in a room.
• Gone Walkabout
• Music as Drama
• Crossroads II
• 10 Best of 2014
• January: Wyoming and the Open
• February: New Mexico and the Holes
• Coming Up
• Notes on The Accounts
• Crossroad Blues