Fell asleep last night with my 5.1 headphones on listening to the surround mix of Bowie’s Reality (one of my favorites of the recent batch of his albums). Stirred long enough to take them off and switch off the player, then sleep took me.
The alarm clock went off with a familiar voice from NPR News saying 4 words that immediately shocked me awake: “David Bowie has died.”
A day of disbelief and sadness but also an invitation to assess David Bowie and his influence on me.
Some other day soon.
The pre-ordered new Bowie disc appeared Friday but I didn’t have a chance to give it a spin until today. Listened to it once on the way to rehearsal and then once on the way home, then one more time as I ran other errands. This is a remarkable piece of work that’s going to take a while to digest but I love it already.
With the exception of a couple days of feeble attempts at playing in the studio a few weeks ago I haven’t touched an instrument in months. Another need-to-pay-the-bills-induced hiatus. When this has happened in the past I have noticed an exponential decrease in my abilities the longer I am away from playing and the harder it is to begin again. I had the realization recently that I haven’t been a musician for a long while; I’ve just been a guy who gets to play guitar once in a while when he’s not too busy making money. This was coupled with the realization that if I never picked up a guitar again, no one would notice much less care.
Now, I’ve played to more empty bars and small apathetic crowds than I care to acknowledge, but fortunately the packed-house and crowd-of-thousands gigs still reign in my memory (maybe haunt is a better term). But let’s face it – it’s highly unlikely anyone but myself will even read this. So, hiatus was gently sliding into retirement (surrender? abandonment?).
Then came the pity party crasher. Listening to the radio on the drive home from the day job last night NPR used the California Guitar Trio’s Asturias as a bumper between stories. I was instantly reminded of times I have played that piece (mostly with the Orchestra of Crafty Guitarists), and how wonderful that experience was. Transformational moments. I realized a huge part of why those experiences resonated was not because of who I was playing for but who I was playing with. Then came the epiphany – one of the greatest rewards I get from playing music is the connection I have with other musicians, a.k.a. my closest friends. [Okay, who am I kidding? My only friends.] Yeah, I probably actually suck and struggle to reach mediocrity. So. Fucking. What.
My happiest times are when I am present and playing and connecting and working with someone on a common theme. I realized that’s what I need to get back to, even if it’s just rehearsing for the next gig that may never come. I’m not playing to an empty room – I’m there with my team (or partner in the case of Stone Document). And once in a while someone does hear and listen and like what we do, but that’s just the proverbial gravy. If this tree falls in the forest and no-one hears it, at least I will enjoy the fall.