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Dustin LindenSmith

father | musician | writer

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being true to the art

Two isolated events inspired a minor existential crisis with my music recently. The first was the receipt of an e-mail from a friend and musician whose opinion I quite respect, which indicated that those recordings we made a few weeks ago didn't measure up. Like, they really didn't measure up: in his opinion, we should just go back to playing jazz standards instead of trying to pull off this funk jazz hip-hop fusion stuff, because it just wasn't happening. The second event was that gig we had a week ago where we each made a disappointing $37.50 for a full night's work.

The minor crisis these events inspired was predictable: if the actual music itself (i.e. the groove, the beats, and the playing) was second-rate and we couldn't even make a reasonable amount of bread on a monthly gig, then why was I doing this? Maybe what we're playing really isn't as good as it seems to me, and maybe there's no real future in it. Furthermore, if I think really hard about the music we're playing, it's not actually all that original right now. Who hasn't seen a live band cover 60s funk tunes before? And who cares if it's a live jazz band who's also improvising on these tunes and transforming them into something different? I mean, does anyone really care about that? And is there actually going to be a decent audience for this stuff?

I resolved these questions over the past week not by coming up with convincing answers to them, but simply by letting them fall away in the face of my own self-confidence as an artist. I told myself, and I hope I'm right, that I'm putting the cart before the horse right now in worrying about whether or not what we're doing is astoundingly original or if we can make any money with it. What we need to focus on is the music itself, and we need to play it as well as we possibly can and put every bit of energy into that all the time. I believe that if we're true to the music for its own sake and if we trust our collective artistic vision, then the product of that collaboration will be worthwhile, and hopefully other folks will think so too. In other words, I'll worry about the "other folks" later.

I suspect that many writers, artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, and other creative people have all faced these same questions in their careers, and my intuition tells me that the best ones have taken a similar approach to what I just described: closing out external distractions, they just stayed true to their inner artistic vision and let the chips fall where they may.

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wickenden June 13th, 2005
I think that's the way to do it. It is hard though, when someone says that what you find quality, is not. One wants to learn new ways of perceiving that will enable such discrimination.

I agree, focus on the music.


vyus June 13th, 2005
Totally my perspective. When Metallica and other bands went up-in-arms about how their art was suffering because of online downloading, they were full of it.

It was their business that was suffering. Art <> business, and I find that is wildly important to remember when trying to produce the best art.

There was an episode of Northern Exposure when one guy was teaching another to paint, or to express via art, and when the paintings were to the point they were satisfie, he through them into the incinerator.

Art can factor into any job -- how someone expresses themselves to tackle their daily tasks is part of their personal art. Musicians who look for needs/wants in the marketplace and create music with a desire to be commercially successful are using their art, but it's much more business (finding an audience, catering to needs, pricing appropriately, etc). That's not the same as the the full-spectrum expression of an artist who creates entirely according to his view (which takes a lot more courage :). If that person's art suddenly becomes the flavour of the week, then great, but the artist would keep going either way...

vyus June 13th, 2005
through = threw. i hate when i make those silly homonym typos :)

iamom July 4th, 2005
These are very good thoughts, thanks. (Thanks for your compliment on what you heard of ours a little while ago, too.) I think you're highlighting something important for me personally, which is that since I'm not trying to make a living from my music right now, I can afford to pay the most attention to the music as opposed to the business of it.

The same is not true of my forays into fiction writing, which is a field in which I do wish to make a living. And in that realm, I have no issues with trying to write something that an audience will dig. None whatsoever.

chaizzilla June 27th, 2005
i'll scroll a lil bit more (then gotta get back to work feh) to find links to said music, but if they're not there do i get to hear it?

iamom July 4th, 2005
Did you find them? The first two tracks on the following download page are from our group.


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