Monday, February 28, 2011

Do you really want to experience it all?

Here's an excerpt from an interesting post that Frank Oteri put on NewMusicbox today:
I've spent most of my adult life voraciously trying to hear everything that's out there and to experience as much as I can of sensory realms other than music in the time I can squeeze around listening. I've frequently attended five concerts in a week, and I've accumulated books, scores, audio and video recordings, spices, liquors, teas, and perfumes to the point that most of the walls of my apartment are covered from ceiling to floor. I travel as much as I can within my own limited financial means and have made it to six continents; every time I come home with a huge pile of materials that will inevitably consume even more of my time. I've also tried to do my best to avoid filters that limit the ability to experience it all—e.g. taste. My own compositions have often taken a back seat to this all-consuming passion to encounter everything I possibly can, although it has had an impact on what I do wind up actually composing—many of my works have been based on the notion of exhausting permutational possibilities, that is to say, they've been about attempting to hear it all.
I suppose the act of wanting to experience as much is possible comes from the hope that somewhere it might be possible to encounter some element of truth in something from the outside that might stimulate or resonate with those truths that we want to have confirmed inside of ourselves. I used to look for truth on the outside, but in my voracious youth I was far too young to recognize truth when I saw or heard it. Now, after living in a place where most of my stimulation comes from my own creativity and the creativity of the people in my immediate family, I find less of a need to seek out "truth" in the outside world.

It's a good thing too. I live in a vastly unstimulating place. When I reach out along the internets to find the kind of "truth" I looked for in the pre-internet world, I find far too much material that is far too disposable to be connected with any kind of truth. I also find that much of what goes on in the world has almost nothing to do with me, and I have found myself of late polishing the small amount of material that does have something to do with me (like practicing, writing, and teaching). I find that there is a lot more meaning in real experience of a world that has its limits and flexible boundaries than one that is inaccessible and remote. I also find that it is far too easy to fall into the vast abyss of "not me" on the internet, and mistake that for experience.

At one time I was like Frank. I wanted to know everything. I had the goal of reading all the books in my elementary school library (I really only read the ones I found interesting), I wanted to speak several languages (I really only learned two), and I wanted to read all of Balzac (I only read a healthy handful of best books). When I decided that I really wanted to learn to play the violin as an adult, everything changed. I found that the only way I could accomplish anything of any value was the slow and steady way. It really made me rethink the quests I had during my overstimulated former life as a flutist, and I think that I have benefited a great deal from choosing my experiences wisely.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Oteri's passion sounds a recipe of equal parts boredom and itching (supposedly relieved by experiencing everything) mixed with a hefty dash of disinterest in his own art and craft, all seasoned with a dusting of silly materialist consumerism. Were this named something, it might be close to your recipe from another year for "easy ass pie," though perhaps it is merely pie-in-the-sky. The pie came out nicely (thank you), but I think we shall forego his recipe in favor of making something at home.

David Wolfson said...

Thank you, Elaine. Frank's essay immediately brought up the question of breadth versus depth for me as well.