I’m not sure what the hell I’m doing here again.

Where by “again,” I mean almost four years after I packed it in on this blog. I’ve been messing with my harp blog (Harp Oddities) and my flute blog (Accidental Flutist) for quite some time, and am still active on both of those instruments, more so than on the piano. I can’t recall the last time I really sat down and did anything at the piano, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. I started taking harp lessons and stopped — and in an ungracious way that did no justice to my wonderful teacher — once it became clear that my hands, although fine for piano, are simply not good for the harp. (I had no idea how punitive that instrument would be toward the human hand.)

I’ve been arranging music for harp and enjoying it very much. I’ve also been arranging music (and composing melodies) for flute as well (19th century conical flute, the sound of which is much richer than the boehm system flute, although I do have one of those as well). I’ve been learning 12th century plainchant on the flute as well.

I seem to have finished my Haendel project and then just … petered out. I can’t play the music well enough, and if I can’t play my own music, what is the point of writing it? Who’s going to care about this shit anyway? I don’t know how to be a composer or an arranger. When one does music, one takes lessons and plays, especially as an amateur. I don’t even know what an amateur composer or arranger even is.

I’ve also felt extremely enervated by my tendency to bump up against some sort of exposure of my music and abilities and then shy away out of some kind of fear or drained hopelessness. For example, although I had been under a cloud due to the pain that the harp lessons put my hands through (and a variety of other life-related things), I finally disappeared from lessons when my teacher told me that she liked one of my compositions well enough to want to perform it publicly. While I had — and still have — been piling up reasons to want to cocoon myself prior to that, for some reason, that was the final straw. I’d like to be able to apologize to her and offer an explanation of some sort, but I have no clearly understood explanation and so am compelled to remain silent since I feel it would be pointless to apologize without some understanding of why I disappeared in the first place. I don’t understand why I did it — how can I apologize without any understanding?

In other news, I’ve been amused to get notifications that my voice articles on countertenors (and specifically Steve Perry) have shot upwards in traffic, no doubt prompted by the welcomed release of new music by him.

And finally, however much I have a love-hate relationship with my instruments (less so with the flute since that one just doesn’t have the same angst related to it with me), the one constant in my life is that I can’t seem to put down the crochet hook (or sometimes knitting needles). I like to be in a good mood when I sit at my instruments, and being chained to the second law of thermodynamics on them seems to really just chafe my ass cheeks in a way that I can’t get away from. Composing and arranging help tremendously with that since one is less “locked to the tracks” when doing that, but again, there is no such thing as an “amateur composer.”

On the other hand, I’m compelled no matter my mood to pick up that hook and make things up out of thin air with no guidance whatsoever. I can do that when happy, sad, angry, depressed, or feeling any mood at all. Maybe that’s my native language, and not music or math. They’re all underlyingly the same skill anyhow — three-dimensional grammatical architecture of one form or another. And I can do that for days, and my hands don’t care at all.

And I end up with an actual thing when I’m finished. And I need not share it with a single living soul, which invariably freaks my shit clean out whenever I so much as think about it.

And whether I share it or not doesn’t appear to impact whether I do it. The hook winds up in my hand no matter what.

I guess I’m just thinking out loud. I have no idea what the hell I’m doing. I guess none of us do; we’re all just rookies in life, fumbling our way through for the first time.

I sometimes wish I were less of a crazy little anchoritic weirdo, but then I look around me and get an eyeful of the rabid monkeys that comprise the rest of my species and I’m like, “Uhhhhh, okay I’d rather be a crazy little anchoritic weirdo than one of them.”

There is one person I’d like to chat with though, just to see how she’s doing.

Life in a Faraday cage

A Faraday cage is a metallic room used to block out external electromagnetic interference. Named for some dead white guy, natch. Inside a Faraday cage, the outside world of wifi, cell towers, and radio doesn’t exist, and it’s completely electromagnetically quiet. A nontrivial amount of science is done inside of them.

Well, I seem to be needing a mental “Faraday cage” more and more as time goes on. The chatter and opinions of other people can be deafening to me, and the older I get the more I can’t stand the noise. This becomes a problem since music is (supposedly) about communication with others, and as I’ve already stated, I cannot stand the presence of others, and it’s getting worse with every passing year.

Again, I’m not sure how this will end up, but it is what it is. I like mental Faraday cages. They’re peaceful. 🙂

(I’m speaking metaphorically. If you think I’m actually wrapping my head in tinfoil, you’re very dumb.)

The crap

I think a big part of the crap is that I’m just not that happy with other human beings as a whole. I can’t even say “recently,” because this has been a long, slow buildup of disgust, anger, and disbelief for some time. And let’s face it, music is communicative. It’s hard to want to do it when you really can’t stand people or being around them, and you are completely disgusted with almost all aspects of human nature.

I would still create music if I were the only human left on Earth — in some ways, it might be emotionally easier for me — but I have to admit, it’s very hard to want to do it when every time I look at a collection of human beings, I seem to see a troop of nasty, tiny-minded little chimpanzee wannabes who want nothing so much as to all pull on the same color jersey, define an enemy tribe, and forge out to dehumanize and visit violence upon them. And it truly is ground into us. Bred in, right at the DNA level. We won’t change anytime soon.

And no, I’m not talking about one particular kind of humans — of course nothing like you or your kind! Those other humans over there! (Irony, much?) All of them. Every goddamned one.

And I’m not talking about one particular event, either. Isn’t there always one? I’m talking every day. All the time.

This is another thing that’s been a long time in coming, since about the last decade or close to it. I’ve grown so repulsed by human nature that I really want nothing to do with it.

Therefore, why work so hard to achieve in a communicative art when I can’t think of any humans that I’d really want to communicate with, because I’m sick of their shit and even their presence has grown acutely painful to me?

I don’t know where this is heading. I hope it turns a corner at some point in my life, because I’ve only now reached the back nine, and I’d rather not spend the next couple decades in this universe with such a shitty opinion of those who are in it with me. But at the same time, a turd is a turd, and you can’t talk it into a diamond if it isn’t one.

I’ve just got a bit of thinking to do.

I think I know why.

I always say that I want to be in a good mood at the piano, that it’s a nice happy little island for me, and I don’t enjoy taking my crap to it. I’ve been quite crappy lately mood-wise, though. At the harp, I’m at too low a level to even expect myself to have Something To Say™ so I can just turn my head off and do arpeggios in various inversions and practice extremely low-level things that don’t require me to say anything or actually get something done. I’m just not in the mood for that right now. I don’t think at the moment I have anything that I’m interested in articulating through the piano, at least nothing positive, and again I hate sitting at it when things are shitty. It’s my happy island, and that’s how it’s going to stay. I just don’t have much happy at the moment.

First of the year

Dusty Strings Ravenna 34

We’ll see what happens.

This has been brewing for some time, and in retrospect, it’s been influencing me a lot regarding how much commitment I’ve been willing to give the classical genre when I know that there is just no way to make this work for me. I think it’s behind part of my hunting around for other instruments, my constant mulling over what kind of musician I am, what it means to even be a composer in a genre that barely acknowledges composers at all much less when they have the nerve to bring their tits with them into the studio, and as I said already, the way that the Haendel project sort of petered out at exactly the same time as I started contemplating the self-immolation of a male pseudonym under which to publish it.

You know, to give it a fair chance. Fair. Let that word sink in a little.

I don’t yet know what it’s going to be like to manage with the new limb instead of the old one, but … well, we’ll see.


If you’re going to respond by informing me that the only reason for that 1.8% is because women like me decide not to write classical music, then you can go straight to hell, do not pass go, do not collect $200. That isn’t what’s behind that 1.8% and you fucking well know it.

The end of the road

“Female composers account for only 1.8% of the works performed. When only looking at works from living composers, they account for 14.8%.”

Fuck you, classical music.

Really, we’re done.

This isn’t a sudden decision although it may look like one. And I imagine there are people out there who have read my blog who will jerk back in surprise to learn that I’m a woman. Yes, I am. A big part of the reason why I haven’t been that forthcoming about it is because:

  1. I know that my natural style of expression tends to read as male anyway. Well, it reads as “male” if you think I’m a man. If you know I’m a woman, then it reads as “mega-bitch.” (You’d have better chances if you were just nicer and more ladylike!)
  2. 1.8%. Or sorry, a whopping wonderful 14.8%. I’m so pathetically grateful! Stockholm Syndrome is so pink-n-sparkly.

Any woman composer who tells you that she hasn’t been kept up nights with the lead weight of this on her chest is lying to you. (No, not performers. Composers.) Should I publish my music under my own name? Should I use a male name?

1.8%, people. Yes, a male name helps a great deal. Genius, despite what we’d like to tell ourselves in our most pollyanna moments, is not always recognized for what it is.

But this is soul-destroying. This is like giving birth and being forced to tell your child that it must never tell anyone that you’re its mother.

I’m really and truly done defining myself as a classical musician. I’m also done worshiping male composers at this point, even the ones that I like. Even my favorite Georg Frideric. I’m really done. Yes, I like his music, but the last thing these (or any) dudes need is one more woman banging on about how very brilliant they are.

I’m done with classical music as a composer. I am now officially new age or folk. And this means that I finally have to bite the bullet and get myself that lever harp. Woman folk harpists have a lot more room for advancement in what is a far more niche culture, although I’m hardly giving up the piano. It’s too useful a tool. (Well, I also want to have more money in the bank before I grab myself a good-sized lever harp, so it may be a few months timewise.)

But I will go where I can make progress. Sorry, but I’m almost 50 and that means I’m done with this throwing myself on grenades bullshit. I will no longer be kept up nights agonizing over whether to tell anyone that I actually wrote the music that I actually wrote and what damage it will do to the music itself if I dare to get girl cooties on it. I have, as Ernest Hemingway called it, “one and only life,” and no one has the right to expect that I will waste it on things that cause me pain and keep me awake, as I’ve been for months if I’m at last — at last! — honest about it.

Least of all, me.

Again, this isn’t a sudden decision brought about by getting pissed at one link. This is the culmination of months of agonizing back-and-forth. I remember a long Soundcheck interview with Tori Amos — another classical refugee — where she explicitly stated that she knew and was told that she would be crippling her career if she wrote classical music since there was no room for women composers in that world. In fact, I think it’s been a big part of why the Haendel project sort of just … stopped after the third aria intro. It’s hard to fire up your enthusiasm for getting knocked up when you know you’ll have to warn your kid to tell everyone they’re not yours.

Well, being crippled sucks. I’m not crippling myself. I’m not living like that. I want to go to bed at night happy with the music I’ve written and at least somewhat confident that it will be judged on its merits.

1.8%. Holy fucking shit. (Oooh, but it’s a whopping 14.8% for living composers! Woo-eee! I’m fucking drowning in equality. Maybe in another century or two, we’ll reach 25%. I’m dizzy with the possibilities.)

I suppose it’s all because women just haven’t learned how to write music yet, the poor dim little dears. When they bring themselves up to men’s level, I’m sure the boys will be perfectly happy to welcome them into the club!

Or maybe it’s because I’m just such a huge mega-bitch and I’m not nice and ladylike enough about that fucking 1.8%. I suppose all women composers since the dawn of time have just naturally been horrible ball-busters, and all the men have been sweet, accommodating darlings.

BTW, if you want to witness a litany of asshole behavior, read a detailed biography of any male composer in history. It’s the inevitable, predictable difference between:

  • “Sure [MALE COMPOSER] was a raging asshole, but he’s still remembered and revered today because he was a genius.”
  • “Sure [FEMALE COMPOSER] was a genius, but she’s not remembered and revered today because she was a raging asshole.”

(Where “raging asshole” in the second case means either “didn’t respond to that 1.8% with a dough-faced snivel of resignation” or “once deviated from utter perfection where someone could see.”)

And don’t anybody dare try to tell me this doesn’t happen in precisely 100% of cases. It damned well does.

Fuck them, and fuck their club.

You know what it is?

I think I’m just whining. I don’t connect with people over music, mostly because I dislike doing it with others around. I’m not into that whole “Realize The Subtle Shades of Meaning in the Composer’s Creation” thing because I’m too busy with my own dots, and I tend not to care for other composers since so much of today’s composing seems … composed of, okay … making goofy plink-plunk noises and calling it art.

That, plus I’m a curmudgeon.

I think I’m just grumpy at the moment.

Not really a musician

There seems to be a constant sense of creeping dissatisfaction in me about what kind of musician I am. I almost don’t feel like I am one. I’ve said before — and I do believe it — that when it comes to the 88-key keyboard, I’m a novelist and not a typist. (I also use the comparison between writing and calligraphy.)

But what would it be like to be a typist? Is that a more “real” way to be a musician?

I occasionally flirt with other instruments, ones that make one sound at a time and where you have to care more about the quality and color of the sound than anything else. I sort of wish I could get behind that because it’s a bit alien to me, but … I just don’t. I simply don’t care about the exact nature of the sound. That would be like reading a book and, brilliant though it was and transformative as the ideas were, saying, “That was a bad book. One of the pages was smudged, and I didn’t like the font.” Who the fuck cares about the font? What did the book say?

But some part of me wants to care about the font. There seems to be something else there that other people seem to care about obsessively that just has no scent or taste for me. I am a novelist, and I am not a calligrapher. I don’t see why I’m dissatisfied with this, but my behavior seems to indicate that I am for some reason. Maybe it’s just that, in the current culture of classical music, the calligrapher is almost the only kind of musician there is. It’s getting somewhat broader, but … not really. Isn’t a musician the sort of person who can hear grass growing? The sort of person who picks nits over exactly which violin should be used for what piece? I’m not saying crappy intonation doesn’t drive me nuts, but the only thing I’ve ever freaked out over was a squeaky damper pedal.

Doing music the way I do it makes me feel very isolated and alien among what some part of me thinks should be my own tribe. Music is supposed to be about connecting with people and social cohesion, and yet the way I do it marks me as fatally out of step even from the other people who do it.