#Showyourwork – A Gallery Concept

I’ve taken to reading Maria Popova‘s Brainpickings, “a human-powered discovery engine for interestingness, a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why, bringing you things you didn’t know you were interested in — until you are.” And while on spec this seems an ambitious objective, it is exactly what results from reading Popova’s daily posts.

What I read from Brainpickings populates my bookshelves – Austin Kleon’s  ‘Steal Like an Artist’ and ‘Share Your Work’; Alain de Botton’ ‘Art as Therapy’; and Alan Watts ‘The Wisdom of Insecurity’. And, as Kleon’s books so effectively illustrate, what I read becomes the art I make.

In fact, after reading Kleon’s books over a couple of days last week I was convinced to enter my work in CBC’s Searchlight , an opportunity for Canadians to discover and support Canada’s “next great musical act.” In particular, I was convinced by Kleon and others that the making  so routine to my art required sharing.

As a creative writing instructor the act of sharing is the most difficult trust to build with students.  And yet, in my own work I routinely put off sharing for a litany of reasons that, at the root, add up to insecurity.  The work is not finished.  The recording is not perfect.  Or ready.  Or…  If this is the one time a listener shares their time, the song must be…  The difficulty is, as Watts so eloquently points out, the act of not sharing means that the audience hears nothing of my new work.  So in saving that experience for another time, the listener hears silence and the result is the same as having not liked what they hear.  If the work is out there, it lays waiting for someone to listen to.  If the work is not out there, it is not out there.

With this thinking in mind, I have decided to release new work over the course of Searchlight’s initial two weeks.  One new song ever day or so.  The record is called fasciculus , a Latin word for which two elements that resonate: the first, A discrete section of a literary serial issued or published separately; the second
Fasciculus Chemicus: a 17th-century anthology of alchemical writings.

The record will materialize as a serial publication of sorts.  So in a literal way the title works.  As for alchemy, Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist explores experience as the only true means to turning everything we touch to gold.  In this way, fasciculus is part of this journey for me.  Steps in the process of making and sharing my art.  Of treating my work with the respect it deserves from its creator.

Further to the songs and the record, I’m going to publish the story behind the song, the recording, and share my process as an artist.  If Kleon is right, and I think that he is, that the work has a way of getting discovered when it’s available for discovery, then I think I have something to share.  And I think these stories behind the songs are part of the work.   They ought to be part of the sharing then.

In the Gallery you will find this work.  As with any Gallery, as art accumulates let your eyes draw you in; let your ears determine the length of your stay.  And, if you like, take some time to say hello.  Afterall, my work is part of a conversation I haven’t had yet.

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In a Bike Shop I Ran into Music

A general theme running through this blog-capture of my music career is the ebb and flow of confidence.  Confidence in myself, in my art, in my music, in my choices;  it comes down to confidence.

Life experience tells me that often when one needs a thing serendipity finds a way of exposing it.  Often the event that reveals the thing happens in the oddest of locales.  I had such an experience yesterday.  I wanted to write about it before anything transpires because it is hopeful and hope is a good thing to capture.  As Stephen King writes in Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption:

I find I am excited, so excited I can hardly hold the pencil in my trembling hand.  I think it is the excitement that only a free man can feel, a free man starting a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain…
…I hope

Winter has come to Ottawa, and with winter comes winter-cycling.  Winter and chromoly are uncomfortable mates, and so it is that the disorganized crazies that ride all winter flock to bike shops across the land asking mechanics to do the impossible: make rusted, broken, unmoving parts, move again.  So it was that I found myself at Rebec and Kroes asking the inimitable mechanics there to do the impossible. As they always do, the impossible was no problem, but required another hour when I arrived to pick the bike up.

Now, before I continue I should point out that this narrative is a product of total impulse: I decided to ride full-time this winter on Thursday morning; I got my bike out, as-is, and rode to school; I decided to call the shop at noon to see if they could complete a same-day service; and having said they could, I managed to run the bike over between classes.  All this to say that chance was in control.

Because I had  an hour to kill, I meandered around and walked into Long and McQuade.  I bought some guitar strings.  Having left my bike bags in the shop, I had to carry the strings around with my gloves.  And, SO IT WAS, that Ian happened to see the strings when he got into the store and asked about them.  Now, had the mechanic not needed an extra hour I would not have bought strings, or seen Ian for that matter, but that hour put us in the same place at the same time with a talking-piece to indulge.

We began as musicians do:

“You play guitar.” A statement, not a question.

The small-talk melted as we both came to realize that our day jobs costumed our other passions: I am a teacher by day, he a bike shop manager, but by night we masquerade in the world of music.

Our ensuing conversation lead to an exchange of contact information.  Ian knows a circuit I’ve not been privy to yet, and he, at first, suggested I make my way to a few open stages, and then invited me to join him and a buddy who does some booking for a fantastic venue next week at one of these stages.

AND, SO IT IS, that next week I’ll be meeting up with strangers at an open stage, and doing what I do best: bare my soul as I sweat out my music and words through a fine balance of passion and aggression.

“Full contact embrace; 
Aggression puts passion, in its place, 
in shadow 
some kind of afterthought. 
When lips touch, 
everything stops.”  (Until This; Streetcar Curtsy 0002) 

I remember the day it was put to me by a mentor that the world, the universe, whatever one wishes to call it, has a way of delivering to you what you need so long as you can be open enough to stare it in the face, accept it, and use it for what it is.  I have arrived at more happiness in my life by mistake instead of design; it hardly surprises me anymore.  Here’s to the power of being in a room and having the wherewithal, the confidence,to share you despite how vulnerable that makes you. It’s, to me, the most important thing.

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