Years of Feasting, Years of Fasts

This is it. Tomorrow, I clamber into my car into my car and drive off into the sunrise, leaving LA behind for . . . well, I’m not sure how long. Two years at the very minimum. Almost certainly longer. Very plausibly, forever.

I realized, not long after I moved out here, that my brain kept track of large–scale time by using seasons. I used to feel years revolving with the annual cycles of freeze and thaw, with the smell of leaves in autumn and buds in spring, the metallic tang of snow on the wind or the muggy thickness of a humid summer’s day. But LA doesn’t have seasons, not really. It gets a little colder around December, sure, but hardly frigid, and when it’s so hot in February that I need to sleep with no covers and the fan on, it rather ruins the effect. LA felt like an island out of time, as tho I had somehow fallen out of the rest of my life, and instead of going on without me, my former surroundings merely froze in place, lost across some far horizon.

It’s hard to overstate how much I needed this. College was intense, and I needed time to process it. I had spent four years in vacuum mode, hoovering up as many impressions and experiences as I could, saving them away without ever having time to really examine them. When I got to LA, it was time to sift. To lay these snapshots and fragments out in front of me and start picking them apart and piecing them together, looking for patterns and insights — into myself, the art I love, and the world I live in. This is private, interior work, and it needs more than anything time and space apart, freedom to explore without being held to any one position by external scrutiny.

Obviously, I didn’t cut off all contact with the outer world — I was still actively blogging, after all, and also joining in the rough and tumble of social media on several different platforms. I joined in a couple new music groups and made, here and there, a friend around town. But still, most days I spent in a room, by myself, with thoughts and work the only thing to keep me company. These two past years have been ferociously mine in a way no other years have been, and few probably will be ever again.

Needless to say, these have been static years as well. Between the end of undergrad and today, I have had exactly one première, and a grand total of two performances of any of my works. Both times, I was playing. I’ve written two pieces longer than five minutes. And sure, I can find things to pad my résumé with, ways to spin these years into a whirlwind of productivity and success, and while I’m definitely proud of those accomplishments, I feel no need to pretend they’re anything other than treading water. Some years have to be like that, I think. Some years have to be for catching your breath before the next leg of the marathon that is making a career out of art.

Most of the work I’ve done has been behind the scenes. I’ve bulked up my network. I’ve streamlined my workflow. I’ve hovered in the background, figuring out how my skills and temperament can help bring art into the world around me, especially in cases where that art isn’t mine. These aren’t glamorous things, but they are important. They’re firming up the ground beneath my feet, giving me a platform to push off from when it’s time for my next leap into the unknown.

I thought things would be quite different. I thought, way back in January of 2014, that after graduation I’d wind up in New York, barely scraping by with an underpayed internship and turning every spare moment to the hustle of making my art and getting it out there in front of audiences. Not so much. Where I looked forward to scarcity, I have had abundance instead, and where I anticipated feasting, I have fasted. I’m not complaining about this! I am profoundly fortunate to have the life that I do, and I don’t for a moment begrudge the tradeoffs I’ve deliberately and consciously made to get where I am today.

But it’s time for a change. Having caught my breath, I am ready to sing again.

I’ve never been much bothered by goodbyes. It is in the nature of things to end. I know this is the stuff of clichés, but I have always smiled that good things have happened instead of weeping at their conclusion. The past is fixed, irrevocable. And for all that this means we can never uncommit our errors, missteps, and crimes, it also means that no power in the universe can blot out our joys, celebrations, and triumphs. There is little to commend in drawing things out past their time in a vain attempt to prolong a moment that is already eternal. Instead, I am drawn to formalities, rituals and ceremonies of closure, a structure that marks the end as the end and turns the parties loose to whatever awaits them next. It is over, it is done, it is finished, there is no need to linger any longer.

And so I say: It is over, it is done, it is finished. There is no need to linger.

Thank you for reading, all these years. Thank you for listening when I have had music to share. I hope you’ve gained a little insight into the artistic life. I hope you’ve discovered a composer or piece you never knew you were missing out on but now can’t get enough of. I hope I’ve given you arguments to chew on, whether you wind up agreeing with me or not in the end. I hope my writing has, in its own small way, enriched your life from time to time.

I hope I see you around in the wild purple yonder that awaits.