This is a (draft of a) song I wrote in my guest room in Osaka after presenting at the American Studies Symposium in March. I was up all night afterwards worrying (even though it went well)—and talking with some friends who were up on the other side of the world, worrying themselves about their own worries too.
I’ve been meaning to record just the vocal track draft for these three months, not to mention putting proper accompaniment with it and such. But I’m still too embarrassed to sing when no one can hear me most days. (Cf poetry –> music –> performance creative process struggle.) Sometimes I think about setting up a better space for music in my studio… Since I seem to dream or daydream songs and song snippets all the time, and then not do the two dozen next-steps to make them songs that live and breathe outside my head… And that would be easier if it didn’t mean quality time with built-in computer mic, online keyboard, and online metronome (which are good and nice to have, but not the real thing). But, I’m not sure it’s an equipment deficit, rather than just not being my forte (a thing that’s easy enough to complete in the way that I can make paintings exist in a really fluid and natural way). Maybe song snippets are like painting ideas (that I have so many more lists of than I could ever possibly execute), or poem/essay/article/etc. ideas (that used to go in a filing cabinet or desk drawer, and now get hidden in a notebook to be mostly forgotten, if they’re lucky).
There’s brain pollen. [ACHOO!] And then there’s the stuff you actually do.
Music is like that constantly wafting brain pollen for me now. It was a huge part of my life a few decades ago. So big it interfered with school. It didn’t seem to offer the quick way out of Alabama I was looking for (and found in academia). Especially since my training was classical and my proclivities alt-pop-ish. So I quit. I’ve often thought that was a bad move, since it turned out I was an artist after all.
Now I think I’m learning to accept that I’m just a living-room singer at best; I have sometimes a strong sense of voice, but more in a visual way, somehow. Although part of being an artist to me is also that it’s messy—the thing you show up to, live for, relax into, claim value for… The boundaries of the field are unclear, sometimes nonexistent. There is no track to be on or off. That’s part of the challenge. Stand-up can be important to me as a painter even as it seems on the surface like a distraction. It will make sense later, or not. Music can be harder than anything even though it’s the only artform I have actual training in. Sometimes training is a burden rather than a boon. Makes it easier to get in your own way. Which I guess is what this song (draft) is all about.