April 12, 2010
Older, in a suite way.
I think I love pelicans and herons so much because in flight, they look like ancient pterodactyls. And, after a phone interview I gave to a very pleasant college student yesterday, I suspect my affinity toward them must be because they feel like immediate family. The composition student asked excellent questions for his report, and wisely focused on things like “what advice to you have for getting started as a professional composer,” and, “what would you do differently if you were beginning your career now?”. To the latter query, I’d say, “arrange to be born twenty years later.” Because as I answered the former, I suddenly realized that virtually none of the tools on which I currently rely for my work and which I ardently teach students and peers to use, existed in 1983 when I left Manhattan School of Music for the great big composing world out there. None.
Well, almost none: the year before, I had received a new invention of something called a Telephone Answering Machine as a gift from a boyfriend (he must have liked me at least enough to want to leave messages for future date plans). It was new technology, and of course one had to offer instructions on the outgoing message as to just what the heck the unsuspecting caller should do upon hearing the mysterious beep. Twenty eight years later, I remain amused by people’s messages with the same, plodding instructions. C’mon, folks, I think we know how to work it now.
So, geez, as I talked to this budding 19 year old composer, did I feel old all of a sudden. I immediately realized that my start in the music business would have been about a hundred times faster, had I had the computer and internet connection he and his classmates take for granted. My first computer, an adorable Macintosh SE/30, followed me home in 1989. It was nearly as good looking as that boyfriend. Soon after, I set up my first real project studio, having had the semblance of one, sans computer but mit Yamaha DX7 and four-track cassette tape, since 1984. Life was good. Intricate home recording via MIDI was the new frontier, and I was an avid cowgirl.
But despite the fact that we now cannot imagine a moment of our lives without them, the inter-tubes did not enter our daily existence until the mid-nineties. And that newest frontier changed everything. With social networking, endless personal web presences and tons of opportunities to instantly become a known quantity by participating in the online communities of our choice, building a career from scratch became a lot more possible. I’m proof: I shifted mine across the deep abyss from film and TV scoring to concert music in 1999, and my ability to successfully do so as a complete unknown in that part of the music world, was almost entirely because of those intertubes.
But I emphasize almost. Because the most important part of the music business, and probably of any business, is building relationships. Whether one does that in person or in pixels, without them, we’re down the tubes, and soon to be extinct ancient history. Squawk!