I made two such intentions last year. The first was to get out of Kansas to somewhere warmer by the end of the year, which didn't happen. The second was to write one new song per month. Due to getting anemia, I didn't quite keep pace with the timing of one song per month, but in spaces of time when I was feeling better I wrote faster, and I did end up writing 12 songs total during the year. Eight of them were posted to my singer-songwriter website. Three of the songs ended up being classical compositions--a triptych for violin, cello, and voice--so those weren't posted on the site (plus they haven't been recorded yet). For the other remaining song, I haven't finalized its recording yet, and haven't yet had enough motivation to just get that done. (But I shall soon.) Overall, 2013 was a really tough year, and I'm disappointed in a lot of things, but I do like the songs I wrote, and I'm glad I challenged myself to do that.
Now, for 2014, I need to write some new intentions. Obviously, life has a way of changing the outcomes one expects (I got anemia, for example, and I'm still freezing my butt off in Kansas), so I'm not going to be too rigid, but I do want to challenge myself.
I'm going to re-post my challenge to myself to get out of Kansas by the end of 2014!! I think I'm actually in a better position for that now than I was last year, since I'm further along in my Masters degree, but we'll see.
Now about music.
Ah, music. I wish I could say "F@#$ you, Music!" and run away from it and leave it behind forever. But it's an unavoidable part of my being. There's something about it in my destiny... If I could only figure out what.
Part of me feels like that "what" is actually just nothing. It's my normal human pride and desire for significance, combined with the celebrity mentality of our culture, combined with the mystical bent ingrained in me by the religious sub-culture in which I grew up, all conflating to produce a delusion, which I interpret as a desire that points to a destiny or calling of some kind.
Whatever the explanation, I don't yet feel ready to give up completely my desire to create music in some kind of way that I share with others and profit from somehow. I've thought giving it up many times, but I want to give it one last attempt first. A real shot, a clear-headed one.
I'm an adult now. I can't stay wishy-washy about what to do with my music. I've long been stuck in indecisiveness on a lot of things. 2014 will be a final shot at putting together a plan for my music. Bearing in mind the mutability of Life, I'd like to resolve, as firmly as possible, the following issues.
- A name. My given name isn't very exotic or catchy. My first name is hard to spell and contains glottal and stopped phonemes. It's earthy and plain, which doesn't evoke the polished feel of music that I usually like to portray. I've resorted to writing under a pseudonym, but I'm not fully comfortable with this idea yet, for some reason, even after almost 9 years of doing it. Perhaps partly because I wrote most of my classical music under my given name while at college, and have copyrights in that name. Perhaps partly because I'm not comfortable with the pseudonym, itself. Should there be a split between my public classical music persona and my public pop music persona? Should I unite the two? Does "AVA" work, or should I think of something else? (There's another musician out there, I discovered, named Ava. She's rather obscure too, but... she has more followers than me!! Anyway, It'll be hard to find any name that's not already taken by someone, so that's not really too big a deal...)
- A focus. For a long time, I've been torn between the genres of Classical and Pop, as well as between the roles of Writer and Performer. Of course, there's no rule that says I have to limit myself to any one genre or any one role, and I don't want to limit myself. But a lack of peace with the underlying issues beneath these questions has kept me in a pattern of wandering, avoiding, experimenting, and going in halfway. I want to come to peace with these issues, not avoid them by being fuzzy anymore.
- A confidence. I am angry about being a musician. (It's not really my choice, I feel; I was born this way.) I am angry about the world that isn't a good place for musicians. I am angry about my inadequacies. I am angry about my failures. I am angry about being given the short stick with opportunity and talent while being given the long stick with dreams, desires, and potential. I am angry about being timid and cautious. And, for once... I want to finally stop being angry and start being confident. This won't be easy, but I want to work on it.
- A definition of success. What am I aiming for? How will I know that I have "arrived"? I know I won't arrive at "success" this year, but I want to arrive at a working definition, so I can decide which way is forward and create a strategy I can live with.
On one hand, the culture's definition of success is mostly based on fame. How many stadiums can you fill? How many followers can you get on social media? This is because fame leads to money, and money=success. I can't avoid having this definition imprinted on me to some measure. I've discussed my position about music and money in the past.
Fame also has the effect of making a person feel important; and, let's not deny it, feeling important feels good. In this mindset, significance=success.
On the other hand, I don't want the pressure of making music that isn't up to my standards, just because it will sell or attract a certain crowd. I want the freedom to follow my muse wherever it wants to go. I want to be able to write what needs to be written, even if it offends some people or goes against the grain, if need be. In this mindset, integrity=success.
Surely there's a middle ground that can be found without too much compromise. Music is meant to be shared with others; if I'm the only one who hears it, then it hasn't fulfilled its complete purpose. And musicians should be able to profit from their music. And music should be of good quality, creative, and free. How to find that balance? And what will it look like when it arrives (or doesn't arrive)?
Performing classically shouldn't be too much of a problem. I have a violinist and a cellist lined up to play my triptych I mentioned above, and they have a lot of venues and connections locally. I'm going to restart voice lessons, and hopefully I'll get my voice into enough shape to feel confident giving a recital of my newest classical composition.
On the pop side, though, there are a lot of issues. I can only play piano/keyboard and sing -- is that enough for an entire show? Should I try to find a band? Or should I just bring karaoke-like background tracks of my songs when I perform? Should I buy some vocal effects processors to spice up my sound? Should I experiment with other electronic instruments to make my public performances more interesting? Is that "me?" Can I pull it off? Will people like it? Do I care if they like it? Should I care? Why am I doing this???
So those are my intentions for 2014.
I would love your thoughts.