This is My Music by Me Music no. ME138 – re-mix companion to ME137.
Supplemental to verbiage for ME137 (stevefitch.bandcamp.com/album/no-one-to-bury-me-when-i-die
This is the “re-mix” companion album to “No One to Bury Me When I Die,” comprising mixes that I’d felt either necessary or enriching to do after having completed the album-proper. Combined, the two series of tracks would not have fit on one CD, but the two are better partitioned in context, anyway.
While writing the explanation/treatise accompanying “No One to Bury Me When I Die,” some other matters begged inclusion, but would have diverged from the premise. Deciding to post this set of re-mixes, it seemed fitting to go into what else I had felt like writing, in keeping with the “sequel” theme.
When I delved into making music again, back in 2009, technology and its resultant modes of culture and commerce posed some concerns and hazards which I could only have seen as I’d encounter them; as my previous screed describes, I just have to deal with them a as a matter of course, come what may. It’s tech, man – AI is going to render humanity extinct by the year 2100, anyway, so no big deal. Technology is a “thing,” a concept reified, and consistent in and with its own nature. Technology itself is logical, so therefore any technological problems, and their solutions, are also logical. It’s just a matter of whether one can muster the logic to surmount the problems. Organizations and bureaucracies are fraught with glitches of human personality and petty treachery, but, being impersonal, they’re ultimately not to be taken personally. The icing on this cake, the final straw on this camel’s back, or the one-drink-too-many, in this case was exactly the stuff which, try as I might, I couldn’t avoid taking personally.
Awakening like Rip Van Winkle into a world whose changes had been due more to acceleration by technology rather than to my own aging during dormancy, the first human-scale modification I noticed was among musicians themselves. Musicians have always been the artists most aggressively solicitous in regard to self-promotion and demanding of both favor and favors, but the recently-developed internetric culture had exaggerated this characteristic to caricaturial proportion. Social-media acculturation and the now-infinite competition for the time, attention, and perhaps money, of the public had given musicians the blunt brutality of predators who don’t even afford their prey the courtesy of dying before being devoured.
I would run into someone I hadn’t seen in a few years, and before I could politely ask for it, he (or, conceivably, she) would now be trying to cram some URL for his (or her) music into my ear while barking commands to “CHECK IT OUT!” and so forth. One musician, who had perseistently tried to convince me to make music again, re-emerged in my life, and when I presented to him, with giddy pride, four CDs’ worth of music that I had produced in the first few months of my “renaissance,” rather than to be happy for me and pleased that his encouragement in the past had been on-the-mark, he instead aggressively, competitively, rubbed my nose in all that he had done, in recent times, on Garageband. In this interaction and with others afterward, I noted this new ruthlessness and lack of formerly-common musicians’ sense community or fraternity – and a gaping hole on the site of its excavation. It seemed, in some instances, like a massive sink-hole drinking-in everything within and just beyond its periphery, and swallowing it all irrevocably into its abysmal oblivion.
Another thing which I had hardly anticipated when I got back into music-making was the hostility and resentful envy that it would elicit from people. This negativity was to come from different angles, in various forms, and for as many reasons, but it came to be so complex and pervasive that it drove me to seek counseling. (Even the therapist himself ended-up being hostile toward me because of the nature of my music and his feeling narcissistically challenged by my intelligence and perspicacity.) Because this was affecting that which was bringing me joy and a healthy sense of efficacy, and since it seemed to have infected every sort of relationship I had, it could only have put some mad whammy on me.
The most predictable, yet still unexpected, offenders were other musicians. There have been situations in which I had been accidentally insulting their very careers, by dint of just flouting the conventions by which their careers were conducted, by my going about what I do in the way that I am naturally inclined or in keeping with the nature of my own work. Although I have been disinclined to get to know musicians (at least because I’m not interested in “jamming,” let alone in playing in a band, anymore), I have come to know some. About half of them have alienated me or turned hostile toward me because – what I do and how I go about it are too unconventional for their cerebral cortices to process? Hell if I know. Ich bin nür ein Musikarbeiter. I grant myself the outside chance that it’s because what I do is stuff that they never would, nor could, come up with, themselves – but this being an afterthought shows my unassuming humility. Maybe it’s that my being so prolific makes them lose the pissing-contest by default. I’m at least some major-league pisser.
I recall how, “before,” back in the alternarock heyday, I had found myself at-odds with the attitudes of peers who were to become famous, and who are still revered or still active today. It became apparent to me that I were “doing” music for much different reasons than they, and therefore that, despite their inexplicable esteem of my music (which had mostly sucked; my present-century stuff is miles beyond it), I hadn’t wanted to be famous, nor had I really seen music as a career. Enviably-situated as I was at that time, it might have been that if I’d played it right, I could have let my music be swept to notoriety in the updraft of my friends’ rising stars, but not only had I felt that an inappropriate modus operandi for me, I also had a deep sense that my talent weren’t yet “ripe.” It took more time than I could have known to permit, but it did eventually come to fruition, albeit as a washed-up has-been. Trade-offs, y'know?
What I have described in the previous paragraph, along with the fact of my not having made any music for 15 solid years before stumbling onto Garageband in Spring, 2009, should be enough to squelch the schoolyardishness that I’ve experienced from some musicians, but that entails putting oneself in another’s place, which is impossible from a narcissistic point of view. In fact, narcissism itself is the main offender, such that it’s almost hard to blame anyone in particular for being possessed by it. It’s just hard for me to abide it, since I’ve survived enough to kill most of them, and therefore, my doing this music at all is a miracle. Anyone who “knows” me well enough, for long enough, to not have expected me to make it past age 40, should grant acknowledgement of a) the most-unexpected blessing of my returning to music as I have, and b) that it defies any and all reflexive comparison to their own art, lives or selves.
It is one thing for people of recent acquaintance to freak-out on me after having heard some of my new music. It surely will defy their impression of me per my real-life personality and how I try my best to deal with people. It will unfortunately transgress any cognitive parameters which they have assigned to me for their own benefit or utility. They might not even be able to look me in the eye, or they might try to avoid me socially, after having “met” my output – although I have accommodated the possibility of their pitying my being mentally retarded; people are hard to predict. They might hold me personally responsible for how my music has made them feel, though this has sometimes elicited more fondness than I know how to handle. In some cases, I have to try to remain in-the-closet about my music, though most people’s not being able to cognitively link how I seem as a person and however my music might sound to them works in my favor, there.
It is another thing for people whom I consider friends or who have comported themselves as such to react to my music, or to my musical activity (without regard to the music itself) by depriving me of credit or hope. The greatest outcome, in my personal realm, of acquaintances’ and friends’ reactions to either has been to see who’s really my friend or not. Some people can’t accomodate such a modification to their ideas of me. Were I to disclose a desire for trans-species surgery, or to finally show them my third arm? “Hey, no problem! I’m glad you trusted me enough to let me know; I accept you however you are.” Others can’t bear the idea of my potentially being successful or gaining notoriety with my music – which is some conclusion to which people leap, probably because the only musicians they know of are famous, or that getting fame-success is the only "reason" they know for playing music.
There is also their resentment of my doing something good, doing something well, and doing something beyond their limited hopes for or expectations of me. The possibility (or delusion) of my being somehow successful with my music makes them nervous because they don’t want me to be successful, at anything. Such reactions have indicated to me how, all along, they had at least unconsciously wanted me to be held-down or held-back. They might be invested in seeing me as the waste of potential that they feel they are, or to experience the frustration and lack of acknowledgement that eat their sprirts, or to share, among others in their/our social milieu, roles which they tacitly consent to being assigned by the collective mind, toward a collective purpose, according to a collective drama-script or order-maintenance. In the words of Leonard Cohen, "You loved me as a loser; now you're worried that I just might win."
One thing that I kept hearing in response to either the quality of my work or my being so prolific – until I fired most of my “friends” – was the word “envy,” used as though it were innocuous. A look at the definitions and etymology of the word “envy” on Wikipedia shows it to be supremely maledictory and cruel. Although these people hadn’t *meant to* mean it in such a way, it was certainly a “carrier” word for sentiments such as resentment and ruthless covetousness. But what was to “envy?” The Art Fairy had waved its magic wand at me while ignoring them? I got a birthday party, and they didn’t? The reason why I’ve been so “productive” (the word used in trying not to say “prolific,” which bears acknowledgement of my having done something substantial, rather than just a lot of it) is because I don’t go out much; I tend to stay in and work hard at what I do. Have less fun; get more done.
One young woman, herself a talented musician and filmmaker, sighed at me enviously, “Steve, if I had your talent –,” which I completed with, “You’d kill yourself.” Not that I see myself as particularly talented (it’s as much perspiration as inspiration), but that my talent is particularly mine, my own. My being is calibrated for my talent. If I were suddenly to serve as a conduit for the talent of Ludwig Van Beethoven, by brain would melt, and then my body would burst into flames. God gives you no more than you are able to handle, though you have to learn how to handle it.
That is why, after hearing the word “envy” flung at me by so many people, I realized that I seldom ever feel envious of anyone I know. In the words of James Brown, “I’ve got mine – don’t worry ‘bout his.” I might momentarily covet, but covertly. I figure that if someone else has something I don’t, they’ve either earned it, warranted it, or are just particularly blessed with it – and if I can’t figure out a way to get it, myself, either I’m incompetent or just not karmically due it. I will envy people born into unfathomable wealth, wanting for nothing, able to do whatever they want – but I’ll also fantasize about their perishing in the crash of their private jet, or being slaughtered by the Manson Family. Hence, my aversion to the word “envy,” and to people who bandy it about in regard to my art.
Then there is the type of person who will say subtly- or expressly- discouraging things. These range from, “It’s just TOO BAD that you can’t/could never/will never _________.” Too bad for me. Or, “IF ONLY you could get your music heard by the RIGHT PEOPLE.” But of course, they don’t know any such people, so it’s a non-possibility. The implication or citation of the adage that “the greatest artists are never appreciated while they’re alive” is one of the cruelest things I’ve ever heard, partly because it’s presented under the pretext of consolation. Even my poetry teacher in high school had graded an assigned collection of my poems with “A++ / You will forever damage your life.” One guy I knew seemed really disturbed by my music, or just the fact of it, and asked me what I’d like to accomplish with it. I replied that perhaps I should try to find people who like it and would like to help promote it. Simple and humble enough, no? No – he barked back at me, “You can’t expect anyone to want to promote your music!” Not him, anway. When expressing a similar desire to another guy I knew, he told me, “It’s futile, Steve.” I thanked him for the tea, got up from the table, and walked the six miles home from the coffehouse to which he had driven us. It meant that much to me.
There’s also, “Well, you’re not (major, world-famous music-star), so . . .” Whichever music-star they’re citing exists in a parallel and rarefied universe. It’s like comparing an UFO to the car parked on the font lawn. Which is more tangible as everyday vehicular travel? The thing is, people have come to receive music and perceive musicians on terms established by the myth-making commercial matrix. A musician with whom I share slices of personal history and friends in common, and whose place I had taken on a compilation album a long time ago, was “the King of Weird” to a college girl who’d lived two blocks from me. She told me, however, that she didn’t “know how to give (me) feedback” on my music – meaning, she didn’t know how to process it, conceive of it, appreciate it, without my being a personage populating the abstracted, mediated marketplace, with my music as a commodified concept; a myth about me to compel her to participate in it by buying my product. He had been delivered to her by the marketing gods; I was just the kinda-strange middle-aged man who lived a couple blocks from her. In the words of the poet Steve Fitch, “It’s not enough to behold – you have to be told.”
In the previous text, I had said that experience cannot be stolen; it has to be earned. Conversely, fame is not earned; it’s assigned, like any arbitrary value. I am surprised when people tell me that they’ve heard of me or that they know people who have. My automatic response is, “Oh, I’m so sorry!” It doesn’t occur to me that I might be someone whom people "hear of" – though, when I met her, the college-girl neighbor had said, “I’ve heard of you,” but that would tend to stroke most artists’ egos. I myself have known famous people, but that in itself makes people think I’m more “interesting” or valuable as social currency, so I don’t mention it, or I evade it when it might come up. The coolest famous people I’ve met “don’t wanna talk about” what they do; they just want to hang-out like reg’lar folks.
Writing such things might pique someone’s interest, but I’m sorry, I just don’t care about that. You’re supposed to pretend to appreciate others’ art so that they’ll pretend to appreciate your art, and go kissing-up in the food chain to the point where you become the guy whom people want to say they’d “gotten to hang-out with.” To some people, I am some “living legend,” whereas to others, I’m that guy who’d f*cked them over, or that bad date, or that jerk who’d used to work with them, or that neighbor who’s always thinking of his neighbors and offering them groceries and winter coats and size-11.5 Nike Air Jordans that he’d found in a dumpster. Ultimately, everyone is like anyone else. The best art is created in spite of onself, which is really all I’ve ever wanted to accomplish.