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RIFFING ON THE TRADITION #14: Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams (Part II)
Is your 2012 starting off well so far? I had a pretty relaxed week – working on the VW, trying some new mouthpieces, revisiting some old music ... house cleaning stuff.
But, it’s getting cold again, not as easy to daydream about the future when I can see my breath in the morning. And besides winter looking like it’s going to settle in, there’s this presidential campaign ramping up and it will likely be ugly. Most of the ugliness is going to be a relentless “appeal to fear” from both sides. You know, "Either 'we' are right or 'they' are right, but 'they' are REALLY scary; that's why 'we' are right."
Well, I’m not going to let them, or the cold, get to me. I'm keepin' my eye on the prize. We’re important, our music is relevant, and if we approach our craft as a full-time job, we deserve to be able to sustain ourselves making music here in New Orleans. Regardless of your politics, the most important thing to remember about 2008 is that we accepted an invitation to challenge ourselves, and we don’t need anyone else to continue doing that.
Last week, I had some very intelligent responses for my call to be “resolute” in the New Year, take the money off the table for the moment, and focus on what artistically substantiates why we are committed to creating in New Orleans. One of the best responses was from a local musician who views himself as newer to the scene and less established. He said simply, “What if you don’t have a clear idea?”
Valid question. In a way, do we ever really know? Our experience and our experiences constantly influence the evolution of our personal aesthetic. I guess it isn’t clarity of vision that I am advocating as much as strength of resolve. January, I pointed out, is usually a bit quieter, a good time to recharge and fortify our mettle.
I don’t want to be a fear-monger like the politicians, so I will stop painting such a dire picture of the challenges posed by our unimaginative tourism industry. I’ll ease up on how myopic our city’s leadership is, and how they squander and under-support the resource we represent.
But, meet me halfway by not being too quick to view new bar gigs where our fans don’t actually pay to hear us as signs that the scene is improving. Looking beyond the service and hospitality function of our music shouldn’t seem grandiose. Also, don’t dismiss the possibilities of having more dignified settings for our music where it can be appreciated properly and supported on terms that we choose.
As promised, we’ll start looking closely at some real allies right here in New Orleans. In response to a colleague who suggested that we need more opportunities for professional development, next week I’ll interview Mark Fowler, who runs the Tipitina’s Music Co-op here in New Orleans.
In the meantime, keep thinking bigger and stay warm.
A weekly dialogue about the music industry and issues pertaining to the cultural workforce.