January 5, 2013

The Amateur in Music

This website exhibits recordings and music in the classical tradition from an amateur pianist and composer, myself. I composed, performed and recorded, and publishing these pieces for three reasons.

First, when I recorded these performances I knew that I was playing the best that I will ever play: these are vain snapshots of the zenith of my life's work in pianism.

Second, as fans we express our appreciation as criticism, financial support, or creation in tribute. I think that composing or performing, inspired by someone's work, is the sincerest and most lasting expression of appreciation. I share my love of the classical tradition to sympathetic listener.

Third, I believe that virtuosity is not prerequisite to integrity. That a musical utterance is worthwhile if it demonstrates integrity. That we amateurs can achieve a worthwhile degree of musical integrity if we think like craftsmen. That amateur expression is essential to the vitality of the classical tradition. I hope that the recordings here are simple, honest, and useful, like a good chair. The recordings lack the alluring spectacle of virtuosity, but give pleasure with their honest craftsmanship. So lastly, this work is a proposal, by example, for how amateurs can participate in the classical music tradition through modest tempos, earnest craftsmanship, and self publishing.

Filed under Essays, Piano, Composing
September 25, 2012

Leaving School for Industry

Recently, several dear friends of mine have left graduate school for industry, only to be disillusioned. I have worked for over a decade but remain in love with the academic ideal. I offer modest but earnest words of support.

When we leave school for industry, we experience an abrupt transition from an environment that celebrates individual achievement to a marketplace that rewards organizational achievement. We each hope to express the full extent of our potential, to find a career that springs from the uniqueness of our talent and earned experience. Academic and artistic achievement are bounded by our own limits. If we cannot sharpen a turn of phrase, balance the poise of a composition, or structure a problem and its solution incisively, it is only ourselves. While these pursuits celebrate individual achievement, industry is a stage for competing organizations.

As individuals, we see the prosperity of talent around us and the gap between where we wish to be and where we are. Joining industry, we learn to perceive organizational achievement and talent with similar clarity.

Organizations might gain competitive advantage through luck, team, experience, capital, relationships, brand, technology, or originality. The more clearly we see the mechanics of this inter-organization conflict, the better we understand the structure inside organizations. "Is it brand, technology, or sales that this organization needs help with? How does that match up with my talents and interests?" These challenges create opportunities for us, whether as employee or entrepreneur.

The marketplace will rarely allow a new contestant, whether individual or organization, to find glove fit opportunities. Between what is best for us and what is the opportunity in the marketplace is a gap. We must be patient. We must endure. Finally, we must compromise. Compromise wisely, for these decisions not only determine how effectively we compete, but ultimately who we are.

Filed under Essays
August 17, 2010

The Lyrical and the Gritty

Anna Swir, who was the only daughter of a poor painter in Poland, and who once was 60 minutes away from execution, writes:

For the last time I wash the shirt
of my father who died.
The shirt smells of sweat. I remember
that sweat from my childhood,
so many years
I washed his shirts and underwear,
I dried them
at an iron stove in the workshop,
he would put them on unironed.

From among all bodies in the world,
animal, human,
only one exuded that sweat.
I breathe it in
for the last time. Washing this shirt
I destroy it
only paintings survive him
which smell of oils.

Anna Swir, you take my breath away with this poem. The sweat, the washing, the fierce physicality of your writing.

I see my father again, for but a moment.

Filed under Essays