critical quality

the idea of excellency is a funny one.  ive been thinking about it for awhile, as i do have loads of time on my head.  five weeks of domestication along with slightly-improvised-odd-activities (still looking forward to do some stone works and such) leaves one with much things to think around/about/of.  while i was walking along the path near the hill (called cracken edge), i collected some wild blackberries and made jam.  fish junior no. 2 have turned into an 'adult' overnight (happy birthday!).  i brought some interesting spices and things and made some quasi-improvisatory things in the kitchen. went to hear some music, even to the beethoven 5th, which is almost hilarious when one knows me that i would rarely pay to go see a classical concert (it's too close to work!)  did some doodles on papers, which are recasted as somewhat useful visual products in a long-ish process (i ought to learn A professional visual editing software i think.  it always takes longer to just muck about and getting 'lucky' in producing results, haha)

so all these odd works make me wonder why i do things that i do and how does it related to what i deem as important: well, life is fairly simple and there are only few things that matters. phew. the funny thing is that such principles tends to run through various mediums and events and continuously tickle one's brain.  so what are these few things that matter? the most interesting one so far has been the idea of 'excellency.'

an event/idea/action always have more dimensions and contexts than one can possibly conceive at a given time.  i remember having endless repetition on the subject, 'can there be an absolute art?' well, let's substitute the word 'art' into something else- music, dance, conception, thoughts, philosophy, whatever you will- then one can realize even by possibly thinking about it, it has lost its 'absolute' status.  a good example is a gossip about oneself by the office water cooler, that always gets to you the latest.  while one had no idea what has been talked about, it went around the town and excited everyone, and by the time it reaches one, it has turned into a fab scandal.  how amazing.  something that probably slipped by one's own consciousness, however, gripped others' minds with great interests. by being simply acknowledged, one is no longer absolute.  oh, the joy of unavoidable contextualization.

once it has brought to the light that there is so much possibilities of 'reception,' especially when it turns itself to become an 'inception,' it could be even frightening to think of the 'future' from 'present.'  the difference between a grandmaster and a young chess student is simply that a grandmaster can foresee into the possible consequences with much more depth and length, from what i have been told, to next four-five moves.  there, a reception of a situation (the board now changed by the opponent) becomes an inception for the proposed plans of the player (hoping to shape the board the way the player wants it, which will then become a reception for the opponent; situation will then repeat self until there has been a fatal error or a standstill cause by one party, where the game ends.  btw, i am very fond of the idea of a standstill after a robust middle game)

so once extended, this paring of inception and reception could require much thoughts for such simple actions. almost paralyzing, as if thinking about walking and trying to walk.  so then a simple event, such as playing, can be quite a daunting thing.  well, i think most musicians play not because they have a particular agenda, but because they simply wants to play.  because they want to play, they find ways and forms to present the 'playing.' and once a time and place is set and people have been called, there is very little one could do to stop/change those parameters, short of last minute changes and cancellations.  and because the world isnt perfect, there is no harm done at all in making an attempt to 'present.'  

wait, what if the risk was more than zero?
realization of activity = consequences?

there are two schools of thoughts on this, from what i gather from my personal conversations.  please feel free to fill me in otherwise.  the first school is that once aimed high, you have reached more than you could by not aiming at all, so why not encourage.  this is not the school i belong.  but i see the value in this argument.  even when an event/action is not entirely successful (usually have to do with the quality of the presented idea/actions), because it already has loads of extra-contexts, it should be encouraged and enjoyed as such.  things like primary school orchestra concerts would be a good example: the quality of the concert itself is a secondary, or even tertiary interest. the main aim of the concert was to involve/organize/process/perform as a learners and the concert involves another 'learning' activity: performing.

aha, yes. one needs to think and learn about performing. though the idea of doing something and being reflected upon should not be foreign fro practice to concert, it never is, as you must have courage to take on the stage (even with needless pressures and worries, as it tends to skyrocket when one 'cares' more and more.  *thought on this later) and be familiar with the ritual of performance etc etc (ex. you wont dress/act the same from a classical to jazz to a rock gig, would you?)(if you do, well, that would be eccentric, at least).

see, i belong to the other school, who thinks that realization of activity must be considerate of its quality.  for instance, if you are prepping for an audition and be a real crap (lack of care, ability, time, practice, whatever the reasons may be), you should not have been there.  one may say 'i was trying,' at which point, by 'trying,' one just have wasted time (irrecoverable), efforts (may be compensated in monetary things, not all is lost) of others which made that environment a possibility.  the audition, for instance, did not exist just for one to 'test the waters,' the audition is usually held for a purpose. if you arent ready, dont be selfish and misuse the opportunity. blah blah.  when presenting something, a minimal quality control must be there. without quality, you arent really delivering what has been promised, at which point, the reception of the work is poor (whether it effects your audience or not) and it may have all kinds of consequences that one never thought was possible (how many drama teachers have crushed countless kids from becoming a comfortable public speaker? i dare no to think of. i had a couple for sure. but i bet they would never know).  

but then, you see, i do make some pocket money here and there doing what i call doodling, not the finest is it.  and i do enjoy the little things i draw on papers AND i know lots of them have probably found places under the old notes and programs to stay for awhile in other peoples' junk files.  far as i know, one of them even made it as an official handout for a university level course. ha ha ha.  so obviously, it's not all about the best you can produce. it's always a juggle between what can be and what should be.

it is a difficult thing to explain to someone that i wasnt being overly critical.  perhaps the way i should say it is that i was not being critical exclusively for them.  there have been many things that i just mumbled to my partners in crime: dont worry about putting my name on the program really... (trans: i hope this wont be recorded in history in any shape or form AT ALL)  at which point i usually think that 1. it is scheduled and it is going to happen, so may as well get on with it, 2. because it is ONLY going to exist in the most undependable form of history: human memory, it'll be alright- it will be assumed that the recollection of any kind will be inaccurate, 3. hence, to survive, all i need to do is to go there and do the best i can do and make sure that it passes through the passage of time.

cowardice? yes.
is it necessarily bad? no, i dont think.

by letting it exist only in a memory, perhaps what i am hoping to do is to only preserve whatever bits that are salvageable and useful.  is it selfish? well, if i knew that it was not up to my own standard but without any other option beside cancelling, i dont really have a choice, do i- especially when it is NOT my show (which is true for most cases).  and with a little shame, i do think that i dont have the right to tell others that they should not enjoy whatever i was able to provide just because i thought it was crap (as we creative professionals do out of blind habit: DUDE IT TOTALLY SUCKED!)

i remember walking out of one masterclass when a good mentor of mine congratulated me. and i said (instantaneously) that i played totally crap. and he looked and calmly asked me:

are you telling me i am stupid?

hahaha. lesson learned.  ever since then, it is always there, the idea of excellency and the pursuit of such illusion. and perhaps it is not always practical to think of such matter. however, as a performing monkey, i think there is a need for one to think about the process of preparing for the best-possible-outcome: selecting repertoire, players, venues, etc.  often we are overly ambitious and bite more than we could even hold in our mouths.  and as one struggles to carry out the rest of the process, it often leaves a dirty feeling in my mouth.  it wasnt right.  the quality suffers and i feel unjustified to subject self and others to sub-par works.   that is regardless of any other auxiliary results- for instance, making one's granny proud and such.  those functions were fulfilled. it does not need further discussion.  what is important, i feel, is the constant vigilance toward riding on 'high,' as if one is to present, one need to be considerate of the recipients, who will then take these experiences as their own inceptions.  

this post is way too long and it's been sitting in my brain for couple days. it's all long and quite dense.  but i am glad that it did sit in the empty skull for awhile as it does make one think about what is important.  purely presenting is not for the enjoyment of the performer.  or the audience.  it is one's responsibility to create an effective results with quality.  especially when it is subjecting less-experienced audiences.  last year at banff, i remember running into book bomber, enthusiastically telling him that i found frank zappa's music done by ensemble moderne.  he looked puzzled and said: do you like zappa's orch music?  NO NO. i dont. but if i am going to make an effort to listen to it again just to see, then may as well listen to a great performance of it.  how can i be so sure that i can only be effected by the conception of the work?  and this point made both of us laugh.  well, zappa can be someone else's hero for a bit longer. but it's a funny thing to constantly think of excellency.

sometimes i think i should aim simpler things in life to be excellent. like water-to-oatmeal ratio.  some things are important, i say.

1 comment:

  1. simple things are often close to perfection: bread, cakes, ale.. very important things indeed!