The Good Gigs Mean Nothing Without The Bad
November 21 2010
Recently the Pianobabbler played two gigs in one week.
One featured my Blue Modules trio project. (Blue Modules- recapturing the pop and dance roots of jazz.) We killed. The audience loved the music. We loved making it.
The other gig featured my regular trio. Meh. Focus: gone. Music: flaccid. Audience: zzzz.
For artists, the triumphs gratify, but the failures dominate. We may bathe in good reviews, yet let one bad one roll in, and we sink. A miniscule boo bedims myriad yays, like the tiny moon eclipses the mighty sun.
The Pianobabbler could not enjoy the great gig for the mediocre one. Never mind savouring the success of the first one's encore-demanding happy audience. Why in the other one did I play in this not that way? How could I have made this not that choice? How did I not sense I was losing my audience? Why did the passion I have for music, for the music, not make its way into my playing?
Tortured questions. Whatever the answers, however, solace lies in the bromides of consolation. The good days mean nothing without the bad . It's always darkest before sunrise. You wouldn't feel so bad if you weren't normally so good.
As worn as the phrases sound, they carry the artist's deep truth: the prick of disappointment moves us to improve our art. Disappointment is the delta of the actual and the ideal.
Unhappiness with what you've done assumes a sense of what you should have done. Awareness of the latter illuminates the shortcomings of the former. I can only know I sucked if I know how good I could have been.
And so, while I regret the weak performance, I welcome it as a beacon lighting the way out from the depths, to greater heights.
Some artists do not grasp the nettle, and avoid seeing disappointment as an opportunity to improve. They wallow. They grumble. They spiral downward. Pity. Artists, even the greatest ones, stumble all the time. Recording and editing have created the impression of ongoing limitless perfection. Illusion.
I remember hearing a bootleg recording of a performance the titanic pianist Vladimir Horowitz gave in Japan in the late 1970's. Terrible. A grade 7 Conservatory student would have sounded better. Yet, Horowitz went on to give great performances after that fiasco.
We work hard to excel in out art. We work hard not to stumble. But if we do, we should see it less as a stumble, than as a headbump on the ceiling of our abilities. The task then becomes not to fall into paralysis, but to turn the ceiling into the floor of our next level of ability and artistry. To turn into truth the bromide that the good gigs mean nothing without the bad.
The Pianobabbler has babbled.
The Pianobabbler is a RonDavisMusic production. The Pianobabbler's blog posts appear weekly at pianobabbler.com. Please remember to leave your comments and thoughts below. Subscribe to the RSS feed. And subscribe to RonDavisNews by clicking on the Mailing List link, above right. And follow us on Twitter.
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