Thursday, February 26, 2009

In a Parallel Universe I Would....

So a few weeks ago I thought I solved the work/stay-at-home debate. But when you need money, what do you do?

We're doing fine, actually, but I want to feel like I'm contributing to the family income. I know I contribute in non-monetary ways (like taking care of cute little E), but I would feel better if I could help with bills, diapers, and dog food (etc.). Some of it too is wanting to stay involved, to be on some sort of career track. But what career track is that? I've spent the last ten years lazing around--not working hard enough to be a better private lesson teacher (I feel like I'm only operating at 10% of my potential), not trying hard enough during grad school (out of several student performance hours and composition recitals I only prepared one of my pieces for performance. Sad! Most of that came from the fear of putting my music out there)---not trying hard enough during grad school and therefore not getting all the teaching experience I wanted--teaching experience that is crucial for wanting to teach college-level courses later.
How have I futzed away 10 years? How do I get out of this rut? 

I had this weird vision last night while watching "Me and You and Everyone We Know" (I liked it! It was weird--I had to watch it twice), which features a woman who does bizarre digital art and tries to submit her work to a contemporary art museum (and succeeds). I tried to picture in my mind what my art would look like if the New York Times did an article about it. I visualized the article, and saw my name in print, but I knew deep down that this could happen only in a parallel universe--or with a crazy amount of hard work, risk-taking, good timing, luck, and meeting the right people. Have you been in a position where you've seen art or writing and you're like, "I can write better than that!" Or, "God, I'll never be able to write/make art like that!" I feel like that's where I am--knowing I can create something beautiful but not knowing how to get there from here, or knowing if it's worthwhile. Seriously, how many writers and artists and composers can the world handle? Don't we have too many (bad ones) all ready? Is it worth the hassle of writing something and trying to get it published (which may never happen)? Does a piece of art not really exist unless someone looks at it, reads it, or listens to it? What if you just made stuff, and no one, outside of yourself ever saw it/heard it/read it? Should you try to sell your art or just make it? Are you an artist if your paintings never leave the house?

I'm thinking about these issues because it would be great to sit here and write/make art while baby sleeps and send it off to get it published and get a nice little paycheck to help buy the dog food and diapers. But even if I write and write until my eyeballs fall out and my fingers cramp up--I'm not guaranteed any money for my hard work. What are your options as a stay-at-home mom? What are your options for staying on some sort of career track? 

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Sorceress

On Friday the 13th I managed to sneak out of the house for a few hours to go to an Evelyn Glennie concert. K had ordered tickets about a year ago, before little E came into existence; K stayed home with the little munchkin while a girlfriend and I went out to see the show.

Many of you may know about my E.G. obsession. Ever since seeing Touch the Sound, a documentary about her, I've been dying to see her perform live. E.G. is a virtuoso percussionist from Scotland who also happens to be profoundly deaf. If you haven't seen this film, Netflix it straight away. When I taught my humanities class a few years ago, I showed clips of this film to the students. Afterwards a student came up to me and said this movie made her want to do something with her life (it makes me feel that way too).

I was hoping for a 5-hour percussion orgy onstage, but alas--she only played on two pieces with the Symphony. The pieces were amazing though--one was Webern's Langsamer Satz (which wasn't as atonal as I was expecting it to be) and Schwantner's Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra (which was amazing a haunting but too short--I thought she had just ended the first movement when the audience started clapping). 

She came out in an elegant, plain sapphire blue dress and artistic-looking necklace; her hair was long and silvery and she wore funky glasses. She plays barefoot so she can hear the vibrations through her feet. Her playing was so powerful--she was like a sorceress drawing out energy from the earth through large bass drums, the marimba, crotales, gongs, the vibraphone, and other miscellaneous percussion. It was also incredibly perfect--every flam and shake and rattle was crisp and clear, like what tap dancers strive for. The marimba part in the concerto was crazy--super fast and repetitive over quite a few measures. I wondered--how is it that her arms don't fall off? Or stop or lag from exhaustion? But they were supple and elastic--almost supernatural. 

The most beautiful thing about it all was the way she used her whole body while playing. It was all like a dance--visually and aurally stunning. She was amazing to watch and listen to. That's what I've noticed about truly great musicians--they use their whole bodies. At the university I attended I was friends with a Japanese girl who was a piano performance major. She was only 22 I think, but watching her perform was like watching a much older and experienced pianist. She moved with the music, throwing her whole torso into Beethoven's allegros, her arms floating during the adagios.  I had never seen anyone play that way, especially someone around my own age. And I think her movements made a difference in her playing--she had the most nuanced and beautiful sound out of any student (or professional for that matter,) I'd seen live. If I could learn how to use my body like that, I think my own playing would improve greatly. Instead I feel stiff and often have problems with sore wrists and back. How do they do it?

Is it too late for me to become a percussionist? What I love about it is that you aren't limited to one instrument, but you have so many different ones to choose from--the melodic  instruments (marimba, vibraphone, etc.), and the pitched/non-pitched membranophones (I think that's what they're called). You also have household objects and your body to use as an instrument. There are also limitless objects to strike the instruments--mallets, wands, sticks, hands....
My percussion instructor at the university didn't take me seriously when I told him I wanted to start over as a percussionist. I felt such power holding mallets--similar to how I feel when I hold a paintbrush. Maybe that's what holding a magic wand is like. 

What I was also thinking during her performance--she could kick any guy's ass if it came down to a drum-off. She's faster, more graceful, and more powerful. I do worry that girls are discouraged from playing the more loud, aggressive, fun, percussion instruments in schools. In our percussion ensemble the girls were almost always assigned the triangle or shakers--never the quad drums or the snare. Maybe that was just my perception (I was only in the ensemble for a year)--but I do wonder if girls are discouraged more than encouraged to play these instruments.

Anyway, check out Touch the Sound--she's amazing.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Baby is sleeping. Dog is sleeping.
A quick random post:

1. At the dentist's office yesterday, the hygienist told me I have a geographic tongue. I wonder if this says anything about my own tendencies to wander?

2. Right now I'm listening to Geographer. Gorgeous music--the male lead singer has the most beautiful voice I've heard in a band. Also Elliot likes it--I think that's why he's been sleeping so long. 

The last show our band, The Triumphant Returns, played was a show in Seattle with Geographer. That's how I heard about them. I got a chance to chat with the lead singer, who was very nice. I can't remember much about the conversation but he did tell me the drummer went to the Berklee School of Music and that they are from San Francisco.
That's what I miss most about being in a band--talking to the other bands you play with. This night was especially great for talking to other musicians and audience members. The bar was packed and sweaty, and I was tired but it was a great way to say goodbye to the Triumphant Returns.

At this show, back in June? I got hit on by a young 20-something guy from Cornish School of the Arts. He must have not noticed my ring finger or slightly protruding belly. I had to enlighten him on my status. He was cute and kinda nice yet kinda icky--he only talked to me when his girlfriend went to the bathroom. He also dissed Spokane ("why would anyone want to live there?"). But when he found out my matronly status he was a lot nicer and wished me well.

3. I'm obsessed with eyebrows now. I picked up the February issue of Vogue at the grocery store, which I never do--I'm usually not into that arrogant, over-the-top fashion stuff, but for some reason I started noticing models' eyebrows and how lovely they looked (weird!). I'm now growing out my poorly tweezed eyebrows so I can get a "professional" eyebrow wax. 

I'm also watching Gossip Girl on the CW channel--not for the writing or content (which is pretty stupid actually--it's about rich teens who go to an elite Manhattan private school)--but for the well-waxed eyebrows and great fashion. I know! What's wrong with me?

4. Speaking of fashion, I've also been looking at The Sartorialist. I feel like I want to be more stylish, and I'm learning that it's all about your accessories: a great (big) handbag, a fabulous necklace or bracelet that provides a focal point, crazy-looking sandals or boots, a scarf draped artistically around your shoulders, a simple haircut, and excellent eyebrows! 

5. For details on my labor/birth, and on the little one write or call me. Too much info to write here. 

6. I'm enjoying listening to music and watching T.V. with the sound off. The New Yankee Workshop and Bob Ross on PBS are excellent for this purpose. Also, we have a new movie channel here, that plays super random movies that no one has heard of ( a ski movie from the 80's, a movie with Ruth Gordon punching a man dressed as a gorilla in the crotch, many Burt Reynolds movies, etc.). This has also been entertaining.

7. It's probably a good thing newborns are so challenging--otherwise we wouldn't want them to grow up. They are so cute and snuggly....and difficult.

8. I'm wondering about the stay-at-home/go-back-to-work debate that mothers have. I don't actually think this dichotomy exists anymore for me.  Your children are babies for such a short amount of time--it seems like a drop in the bucket in the ocean of your lifespan. I want to hold Elliot as much as possible before he is too old and big, which will happen soon I'm afraid.

9. Reading: Best American Short Stories; Sounding the Inner Landscape (a book on music as medicine), Ted Kooser's Delights and Shadows.

10. The further away from school I get the more I love music. I mean really love it.