What's New?
The PoD Roundtable
moderated by Bill Shoemaker

(continued)

Shoemaker: The creative music universe has totally changed in the decades you’ve been active. The micro market for this music has become a nano market. Venues, labels and magazines seem to fold on an almost daily basis. Efforts to create a new audience for the music seems perpetually stuck in first gear. Sisyphus at least had the advantage of going up the same hill over and over; but, the hill for creative musicians seems to get steeper and steeper. What, in the face of all this, sustains your commitment?

Vlatkovich:  In a way, it's very much like the joke. What does a jazz musician do after winning the lottery? Continue doing what he had been doing until the money runs out.

For me, I have never pursued this path with the goal of fame and fortune. I do what it is that I do exclusively for me, no one else. I am attempting to please me, no one else. I am attempting to explore and express "my being" through this medium of music. I refrain from using the word emotions/feelings because I don't think it is completely accurate or comprehensive enough. I am attempting to create my world outside myself with music. What motivates this intense desire is somewhat of a mystery I suppose; it's not unlike an addiction really. It is quite honestly the only reason I exist. I exist to express myself and no one can express my view as satisfactorily as me. There is nothing for me that is as gratifying and fulfilling as creatively expressing a moment in time (past/present/future) from my unique perspective. What is fascinating and I guess shouldn't be surprising, is that I find others that relate to what it is that I do. That is not to say they interpret the symbols in the same way, but they do receive some sort of benefit from the work or works. They relate in their own way as I have related in my own way to others' self expressions.

I am continually fascinated by the rejection of teachers of the young regarding this music. Because of their biases and prejudices, they assume the children will feel the same way as they do.  The young are curious, inquisitive, INTERESTED. Sound organized in a different way. Sounds created by instruments often times unfamiliar. Sounds that evoke pictures, emotions, etc... I am suggesting small doses of creative music.  I agree that a lengthy concert would be too much, but small doses would expand greatly the horizon of the young. They, actually everyone, should be stimulated and introduced to different musics.

There is a similar situation with venues. No one knows better than I, that there are venues that would be appropriate and venues that are not. Because the potential listeners don't have easy access to this sort of music, it becomes more of the responsibility of the venue and performer to help engage this potential listener. Regularity is crucial in developing and nurturing an audience.

Another easy method to expand and enlarge an audience would be to have music instructors encourage their students to go to these venues. Experience live music. Experience the interaction. Unfortunately, as with the teachers of the young, these instructors also have their biases and prejudices. Often in today's society, the commercialism/marketing is so oppressive society succumbs to the prescribed conclusions. The instructors buy into this as well. The music biz tells them who is hot. Creative thought is discouraged. My hope would be for society to think more about choices and investigate/explore the possibility of the many choices not considered. I thought that was the purpose of education/ instruction?

I never want to tell the listener how to listen, or for that matter why to listen. It is important that the listener find their meaning in the music. I can't do that for them. Connecting /finding an audience, your audience, will always be difficult. We all need to take responsibility for making the connection happen.

Golia: All the things that you have mentioned in your question have always been part of our existence on the west coast since I joined the music scene here years ago. These things actually do not matter, at least in talking for myself because of these reasons; few of these labels and magazines actually pay much attention to the vibrant and multi faceted ongoing music scene that exists out here, most of us have created our own labels so we can control what happens with our music, and as for the audience we have always tried to create new venues and expand the potential listener base. I do feel we need to address the concerns of transmitting our music through various new outlets like cable television, internet streaming, MySpace, etc. and link with other20geographic areas with like minded people through these mediums.

Out here because of the distances and isolation, we have all had to create our own impetus to create and search for other creative souls to realize our dreams, currently I find great joy in performing with a lot of the younger musicians I have been introduced to and I think this is one aspect of sustaining the commitment and community of our music. Our traditions are aural and the stories of the elders need to be passed on, as they were to us. I have no problem being inspired by these young creative souls around me, what they see as their future and how they are responding to these challenges and their love of music. Together we all search for new ways to present and preserve this music art form which we love so much. As far as the "hill" in your question, it truly is a wondrous thing to climb against the odds and present a work that challenges your own ideas, the ideas and ideals of others, as we express ourselves and our thoughts through sound using the mind, body and spirit.

Also I think it's just not just the creative music universe but the total music universe that is changing and with new forms of technologies and thought processes we are confronted with adapting and evolving it is essential to our existence as musicians and artists to observe and adapt. The hills are getting steeper but the rewards become greater when you accomplish your goals confronted with these great odds. If we are to be considered as explorers and innovators in our fields then we must explore of course, but remember to come back and give our community the fruits of our explorations. It is also our task to stay open minded about the possibilities life presents to us and how we will included these discoveries in our existence on this planet in this lifetime. I think this is another important issue as there are many camps of musical direction at the moment.

So the main thing for us is to remain true to our original love of music and sound, humble and respectful to the presentation of our work. The rest doesn't really matter as we have a gift and a duty to fulfill its use.

Cooke:  The factors that sustain my commitment are essentially very personal ones. Over the last thirty five years, one of the great gifts that I have that helps me sustain is the perspective over this reasonable period of time of my growth as a player and as a person. I can see where I come from, how my generation fits in the continuum of history, and how the succeeding generations of players takes from the past and builds a personal process and story to contribute to the growth and development of our common continuum. This perspective helps me see our battle for meaning, clarity and community. The great commonality that we share gives me a great sense of connection with my mentors and those that follow my generation.

This kind of perspective makes it easier to understand the struggles of musical and personal growth, and to have the patience to appreciate and understand the gift of the work that we do and the milieu that we are honored to be a part of. The logistics of making a living, sharing our work in a crowded marketplace, having an artistic relevance at this point in time, and in a larger sense, of being part of the solution and not the problem are really daunting as you so eloquently describe in your question, but the importance and the responsibility of walking this path make my life incredibly meaningful.

My involvement in the creative work that I’ve done my whole adult life has led me to want to live a meaningful, productive, and useful life. I want to contribute work that provokes and stimulates me and others to want to be as alive as possible.

Another of the great fortunes that sustains my commitment, are the creative relationships and friendships that I have with the many extraordinary people that I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from. The different perspectives and processes I have come into contact with have helped me to explore areas that have made my journey through all of this a far richer one. I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with dancers, poets and visual artists as well as musicians/composers/improvisers of every stripe.

Over time, my experience has included many intoxicating successes and many failures. The successes are very affirming and exhilarating, but the failures have been what have made me have to reflect and regroup and encourage me to question my thoughts and actions much more vigorously.

I would say that I resonate with sound. It simply touches something in me that nothing else does. It’s the sound, the process of making music, the personal connections that come from the collaborations, the opportunity to express myself in a deeply personal way, and the ability to connect with anyone that will listen that help me want to stay committed to what I do.

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