Sunday, 12 February 2012

Onwards and Upwards

At Christmas, the band I've been playing in and I went our seperate ways. Playing with Trio Gitan was a wonderful musical experience and, had we simply intended to continue what we were doing, I'd still be doing it. However, as a glance at a roadmap of Britain will show, the North Eastern edge of the Yorkshire Dales isn't exactly the centre of the musical universe. If the few roads that snake over that part of the world were veins and arteries running through a carcass, then that part of the carcass would be suffering serious circulation problems. For the band to be financially viable long term meant travelling long distances and staying away over night. I didn't like the idea of that -teaching all week and disappearing at the weekend- so, with a heavy heart, I left it. It seemed the right time: we had no gigs until March and leaving when I did would give Andy and Jack (the other two-thirds of the band) time to find a replacement.

At least I've not had the problem of wondering what to do instead. Taking the band away has simply made room in my life for all the things it was pushing out - all of it stuff I do, given the chance, for the sheer joy of it. Spending time with K, watching telly, chilling out, running, blogging, writing a bit of poetry now and again, amateur radioing.

If I get involved in playing music again outside my teaching work I think it's going to be simply because I want to, and not because I'm being paid to. That'll probably mean playing free improv (see video, below) and there's not much chance  of running into anyone who's into that round here, although you never know.

I also feel strongly that music should be part of life and not just something that's done in halls full of seats. In pre-TV days people used to play the piano and sing to it. In Elizabethan times people would gather around the table and sing madrigals (the parts were often printed facing "North South East and West" to facilitate this). Being able to make your own music was considered an essential skill, like being able to use a remote control today.

Not entirely unrelated, there was an item on The Culture Show last night (BBC 2 - it was a cracking episode all round, I thought - it can be found here for a few days) about artists giving away art for free. You make a picture and leave it in the street with a "free" price tag on it. Sooner or later somebody takes it. I was reminded of IPYPIASM.


Rachel Fox said...

It's nice to read this angle. There is quite an army of people online who take the "we must always be paid for art" line and I find them exhausting. If you can get paid that's great but it's not always the point, not always possible, not always suitable.

We've been making some music in our house of late. Singing at the piano and all that.


The Weaver of Grass said...

This making music idea has only recently become quite rare. When I was young (not all that long ago) we used to meet in our sitting room on a Sunday night and sing round the piano. One or two nights in the week my brother in law would pop in and I would accompany him on such songs as "The Bold Gendarmes", "Excelsior" and "Larboard Watch" and we had a village concert party which put on plays and concerts over the winter months. It was such good fun. I suppose TV has to some extent killed that off, but it is sad.

Argent said...

I grew up in a completely non-musical household and would dearly have loved an evening around the piano.

I doubt anyone will ever pay anything for any of my art (I once earned a few quid busiking, but that was years ago) and I'm not too fussed, so long as people enjoy it for what it is. Music-making is pretty much part of my everyday though and I'd be lost without it.

Sad that you had to quit the band though, you were great together.

I listened to a TED talk last night about how wrong it is that we place all the arts in a hierarchy below the 'proper' subjects like maths and science, effectively de-valuing creativity in general - and this at a time when the various challenges we face means that we have never needed it more.

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for these comments.

RF: I agree with you 66.6% about pay. It's not always the point and it's not always possible. It is, though, almost always suitable, I think, unless it's for family or friends (the criteria that apply to anyone's trade - motor mechanics, IT workers, plumbers, etc).
However, I have a hunch that these days its about getting noticed and if one only wants to be paid then one will never get noticed. On the other hand, I think there are situations where if you do your stuff for nothing you're being taken for a mug (playing what they want not what you want, playing at functions and events where people are paying to go in etc.). I suppose I think that playing for nothing should be a conscious choice on the part of the artist rather than the norm and I think that getting out there for free is worth doing if it is a way of making people realise that the arts are worth paying for.
Also, I wouldn't play for nothing if by doing so I was driving down the price of musicians' services. There are many big towns where gigs are very poorly paid (if at all) because there are loads of aspiring young musicians eager to play.

WG: It is only sad if it happens. At Christmas the children I teach are in demand for their carol-playing abilities! What we need now is reasons for making music for the other 11 months of the year.

I've just noticed that this is my 325th published post on this blog. To you and I this number carries no significance. Our laptop, however, is a superstitious dude and tells me it's is wondering what the significance of this number might be. In binary, you see, it's symmetrical: 101000101.

Dominic Rivron said...

Argent: Thanks for that. I'd go along with what you say about playing. Your comment, oddly, popped up after mine, above, had been posted.

What I forgot to say was what a good idea I thought THE MEDICINE SESSIONS are. I wish I lived don the road from them and not across the sea. it would be good to see something similar round here.

Argent said...

I too would dearly love to be near the Medicine Sessions. Maybe we should start one in our own area. Hmmm. I think you have an interesting point about musicians being willing to play for free driving down the payments. Bit of a dilemma for the likes of me who would like to play to an audience, but who does not need to try and make a living from it. Not sure what the solution is there, and would feel a bit guilty if I was robbing 'proper' musos of their income.

Kat Mortensen said...

The Culture Show looks fantastic, but we Canadians are not permitted to view BBC material. Pooh!

We've been watching an American series (we saw the second series in progress on "Bravo" t.v. and found the first recently, on YouTube) called, "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist". It is a reality-competition wherein 10 young artists are given the opportunity to succeed and ultimately win money, sponsorship and their own gallery-showing at The Buffalo (NY)Museum of Art. Each week the competitors are given an Art Challenge and one by one the group is eliminated. It is a fascinating and inspiring program!

Sorry to hear your group disbanded, but am pleased to see you more consistently blogging. We benefit from your erudite posts.

John Hayes said...

Trio Gitan made excellent music; I very much enjoyed listening to the clips you posted, & your bass playing was a big part of the sound. Best of luck to your two mates as they continue.

I do agree with you that it is indeed "suitable" that artists--musicians included--be paid when they are asked to provide services beyond a circle of family & friends; it's also been my experience, as a performing musician, that a lot of people who will ask you to provide music for an event are shocked that you might want some kind of compensation. Thus, I am most sympathetic to the 'must be paid for art' voices, tho I realize it isn't always going to happen, & there can be extenuating circumstances, one of which is "exposure."

I would make a distinction in a sense between musician & performer--there are a number of people with musical gifts who, for whatever reasons, are just as happy using those gifts in small social settings & not playing to halls (or coffee shops) full of people. On the other hand, some of us--& I include myself in this--find that "performing" music fulfills a need. I also find that at least semi-regular performances keep me focused & moving forward, & I've spoken to a number of musicians who feel the same way.