I find myself uneasy with one of my previous blog posts.
A few weeks ago, I was in New York. Frank Oteri wrote a blog entry on our conversation; he was upset that I had given up on composing. I defended myself...
but the truth is, although I thought I was clear on my stance and the reasons for it before I sat down to write that post, by the time I finished writing it, I didn't quite believe it any more. Justifications kept going clunk (rather than ding... reverb), reasoning seemed to circle, there were holes in the argument....
So, with my analyst in the background, repeatedly hammering away at the need for me to be creative (at times almost mockingly – we have had a few rather sharp exchanges in the past three months; which of course suggests that there is shadow stuff floating around in the analysis, perhaps on both sides), and in a spirit of cautious investigation, and partial retraction, I'd like to revisit Why I Don't Compose, And That Isn't A Problem.
At least, insofar as I can do so....
1. Music, and composition, are good things.
2. However, they are not innately better than other activities – creative, artistic, whatever you prefer. (Admittedly I've pushed the opposite of this argument in some of my published papers; but I was younger, and/or trying to make a particular kind of point. The aesthetic traditions of either dismissing or enshrining music, or any particular art form or intellectual or social endeavor, are familiar (think of Kant, Schopenhauer, even Nancy)... but they are all fairly self-serving; and all of them are founded on reasons that are as easy to disprove as – well, as my argument in that earlier post.)
3. Composition is no longer plausible for me. (My skills were never very good, and what there was has faded a great deal; any musical creation, at this point, might not be as bad as are my attempts at drawing, but once you've said that you've said all you can.)
4. It's fine for Frank to defend, valorize, glorify music: he does so with passion (rather than logic), which is an entirely good reason to do things in life – but which can only make it important for him (and for those who already agree with him), not necessarily for anyone else.
All right, so: that's really all I've got. Any more extensive reasoning about why I don't compose starts to clamber out across soggy, swampy logical holes and self-justifications.
Ultimately, I suppose my above reasons for not composing reduce to: realistic pragmatism; and the relativism of action.
After all, people do different things – plant gardens, correct accounting ledgers, teach children, build skyscrapers, fix cars... paint, write, compose. Make love. Hem dresses. Go for long walks. Bungee jump.
And while those things can be done in various positive or negative ways (are they generous, does someone develop understanding, is something made better, are they simply fun?), they cannot be lined up on a list of best to worst. Call me a relativist – and I am (hey, what do you expect – I'm gay, have worked in the arts, grew up in the seventies, and lived in California for two decades!) – but that's my stance.
Admittedly: the question of what I should be doing, in life... well, if it can't be composition... yes, it still should be creative; and it will be connected to the life of the mind.
But other than that...
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen – there will be no questions at this time.