A Life in Music
So, you want a life in music. Maybe you even want to write about music.
You could be a music critic—if only you had the gumption to abandon the practice rooms in the basement of the college music department. If you left rehearsal long enough to raise a pen to paper, to flutter your fingers meaningfully over a different sort of keyboard, you could be the next Greil Marcus for crissakes.
That’s cool. But be careful. Though some sonic sprite may grant your deepest desires, there are plenty of pratfalls on your road to magnificent musical writ. They’re just distractions developed and manifested by nature or fate to distract you from your mission.
The following anecdotal advice is provided as a service of the Alibi music section. After laughing at length or wincing wondrously, readers may find themselves one step closer realizing a damn good dream.
Defy convention. While managing a concert hall at UNM, I was asked to organize a performance class. No one stepped forward to play. I took matters into my own hands, walked over to the Fine Arts Library and checked out a copy of Atom Heart Mother. What the hell, I reasoned, the first side sounds like classical music. One hour and 90 decibels later, I was escorted to the chairman’s office. Dude chewed me out for another half hour about the “drugged out trash” to which I was exposing impressionable undergraduates. Afterwards, I headed for my basement office dejectedly, cursing under my breath about how I was going to quit music forever. On the way, a barefoot hippie clarinetist with a fetish for Poulenc bounded up to me in the stairwell and asked me what I thought of “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast.” Feeling vindicated, I turned and returned to the library, retrieving a copy of Hamburger Concerto. I got chewed out again, but the concert hall class was filled to capacity for the rest of the semester.
Don’t argue with sound engineers. At the last minute, I was asked to run the sound for an extremely popular psych band gigging at El Madrid. Their regular engineer was caught up in the studio, mastering tapes for his own band’s magnum opus. What the hell, I reasoned, it’ll be an easy Benjamin. When I got there, I realized I didn’t care for the way the drums sounded. So I mic-ed the trap set and ran the whole lot through gated reverb. Midway through, the absent soundman appeared, ran up to the FOH board frantically and asked what the heck I was doing. I shrugged and said, “Hey man, it worked great for Phil Collins.” Over the din, he informed me that the Zotz were supposed to sound like a sixties band, not like anything from the ’80s. As he pushed me aside, I reached in my pocket, counted out the stack of sawbucks I had been paid, walked out the door and headed over to the Fabulous Dingo Bar for a cold barley pop.
Suffer fools at your own risk. Two fellows with guitars came to my house party. They wanted me to hear them play their latest tunes. What the hell, I reasoned; at least this party has live music now. I sat back to listen. After spending 15 minutes trying to tune up, the pair launched into something that sounded like a drunken Bobby Zimmerman aping The Flaming Lips. I told them it was brilliant, even though it was practically horrible. An hour later there was a riot in the kitchen; the cops showed up and arrested the guitarists. Something about the noise ordinance and outstanding warrants. The next afternoon I found a note pinned to my front door. All it said was, “Thanks for ruining our careers, asshole.”