Tuesday, November 30, 2004


This weekend a local bike store had an expo of all the 2005 gear. They had reps from a lot of the manufactures there as well as draws to win stuff. One of the draws was for a virtual trainer. You put your bike on the stand, put a TV in front of it, hook it all up to a computer and pedal away. You steer the bike on the screen and it keeps track of how you do around a virtual course. I did the 1.6km course in 2:15 for an average speed of 42.6 km/hr. The top guy did it in 1:55 for an average of just over 50 km/hr.

When I finished I totally spent; I could barely walk down the stairs. My lungs, throat and gums hurt, I suspect I was a bit dehydrated before I even started. Keep in mind I didn't have to ride that hard. The idea was you try the trainer and get entered into a draw to win it. Didn't matter how fast you went. But no, I had to go all out.

This is the reason I don't compete: I want to win. Giving it my best effort (which I really did) isn't enough. Not participating is better than losing. In this case there was no way I was going to post the best time. The top rider was a competitive road racer who stopped by in the middle of a training ride. But still, I feel stupid for not winning.

The strange thing about all this is that I don't feel this way about music. I walk past hundreds of gig posters every day. The ones that annoy me have photos of smug, young hipsters with trendy hair and pseudo-rebellious cloths/piercings/tattoos/whatnot. The image that this conveys to me is one of superiority. "We're cooler than you" seems to be the look they're going for. Or put another way: they're winners, in their own minds if nowhere else. Which of course implies that there must be losers.

I hope that no one ever gets the idea I feel that way. That somehow I'm better than them because I play in a band. Music should be about inclusiveness. While I'll admit that in the past I've felt smug in my obscure musical knowledge, I've outgrown that attitude. My favorite musical conversation is one where I can share what I know with others and in turn learn something myself.

In performance inclusiveness is also the goal. The bass player and principle song writer in my old band used to intro us with "We're the Blah, Blah, Blah's* and you're not!" I hated that. Musical experience is the sum of the performers, songs and audience. All are equally important. A philosophical question: If a band makes music in a forest and there's no one around to hear it, are they just masturbating? It sure feels that way sometimes. Not always of course, sometimes there's joy simply in the doing of it. But like all things it's better with people watching... er, I mean...yah, abandoning that metaphor and moving on...

I'm having trouble reconciling these two aspects of my personality. How can I be both competitive and not? Is it because I've defined the goal of music to include more than myself? Is it that simple? Or is it because I'm a mess of contradicting impulses and ideals just like everyone else? Or a bit of both?

Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then, I contradict myself;

(I am large—I contain multitudes.)

Walt Whitman

Maybe I should take this approach, seemed to work for him.

*not our real name


Anonymous said...

Perhaps your 'contradiction' lies in the different categories in which you you lump sports and music. Until the past few years, you've done most of your riding solo. I seem to remember you being very proud of yourself for beating other riders. But as for music, you've done it both solo and with other people.

You're approach to watching riding and music are also very different. You watch riding where there is clearly a winner, most of the time, there is only one. Unless you're hooked on reality Idol shows, when you watch a band/solo artist, there is no winner. There is only the hope of getting people through the door of that smoky club (soon that will change depending on which city you live) and knocking their socks off so they'll bring more friends the next time, because you need to eat.

Most of those pretty people on posters are gimicked up to the gills, and you know it. Some of them are terrible musicians, but they have fantastic stage presence. Or perhaps they knew the right people. Your bass player's antics and the 'we're better than you' image is simply a gimick. But does it sell?

Everyone hopes, hopes, hopes, but there are very few who make a tonne of money, or are able to remain popular while they keep doing it over the long term (Madonna is an extraordinary exception to the rule). But what happens after some have had their 15 minutes of fame? Some move on to the bottle, the needle, or a regular job. Others keep on with the music, either by backing up others, or by getting involved in other aspects of the industry such as writing, producing, or reviewing.

Rather than questioning whether or not you are contradicting yourself, perhaps you should ask yourself what you consider a 'defining moment' as a musician.

Take good care,
MJ xo

PS: But just to rub it in, my band just made it through the first round of an emerging artist competition! We're guaranteed a spot on the Website. The next round of judging will determine whether or not we make it on the CD. Now this is an occasion in music that determines 'winners.' Canadian Idol, here I come! Well, maybe not. I'm too old...

Esther Kustanowitz said...

I always loved that Whitman quotes. Also, here's another one:

We all contain our opposites.

[That one's mine.]