Monday, June 11, 2007

Not my portfolio

We were invited last week to a neighbor's party. A very local family, Praunheimers for generations. People with good, ordinary, honest jobs, educated but without much interest in things intellectual or high cultural. The garden is nice, the grill is hot, the children are busy. In other words, the perfect time not to worry about my work.

But then comes the inevitable awkward conversation: a guest wants to know about composing. What instruments do I play? Do I have a band? And then some question that begins with Bach and ends with "the Beatles, who are of course already modern classics...". My opinion was required and the best I could summon was this: Like other craftspeople, musicians have their specializations. If your roof leaks, you want it fixed, and you don't care if it's done by a carpenter or a roofer or a plumber, and any of these could probably do something to get the leak stopped for the time being. But you want it fixed for the long haul, so you want the repair that's most appropriate, not just a stopgap measure. Each of these craftspersons has skills and experiences in particular problems and so it matters whether the leak is next to a window, or due to a broken tile or shingle, or a leaky drainpipe, you want the right specialist. You've asked me as a musician about my opinion of some music that I don't play myself, that I don't even know so well. I could tell you something, anything, but it wouldn't be a professional opinion, it would just be the opinion of another listener, with ears as good as your own.

Although honest, the guest was not happy with my answer. I probably should have said that after London Calling and the first Spot 1019 album, pop music had lost me.

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