Jakarta rainstorm

"just like that
my whole world
changed in a flash just like that
my life so different now
so different now..."

These are the lyrics by a mate Gav for his song 'Just like that'. In July he asked me to come along to the studio to lay some cable (erm, bass tracks) and this song was one of those. The truth of these words hit me like cobra-spit. And now, as I sometimes get up and do the acoustic thing with the boys, the words maintain their relevance in my day-to-day life.

Last week the mood at work was akin to a gray rainstorm about to burst like a steamship on Jakarta. And sometime during the middle of that week my manager announced her resignation. This detonated like a bomb throughout the school as it was definitely the last thing that anybody had expected. But there's so much polarisation and politics in that place as it stands currently, that much has given over the past year. And my manager tendering her resignation is one of the pieces that's toppled over in the game of work, and this is one big domino.

All of a sudden I'm called to meetings, I'm having to postulate ideas quick-smart, training up a new person. Just when you least expect it, life hits. And I know in myself that I'm needed, I'm where I have to be, for the organisation, for the staff, for the blessed students.

It's bizarre in a way because over the past few weeks I've seriously considered chucking in the library and going back to study. I would consider a Bachelor of Music degree in Contemporary Performance specialising in bass. My nephew - who's a professional jazz guitarist and who teaches at the college I'm interested in - tells me it's a good course but not worth the money, like, 21K per annum. And come to think of it, do I really wish to spend my days with twenty-somethings obsessed with their chops, with their gear, and the rest of that muso clap-trap, playing "industry-standard" music?? As much as I love playing I know there's more to life than that. Besides, I can't bear the thought of competing with slappers. Y'know, the guys who do the slap symphony thing on bass. I don't know why but I can't stand slap bass, especially when it comes from white guys wearing caps. I just like to play one note, and then another note. And then another. I like to read the bass part of a Beethoven symphony and get that happening on electric bass. I simply like to get up and play without all the baggage, without all the fuss.

I won't be studying. I'll be working at a place that needs me. And when you look at it, it is a good workplace opportunity for me, which is satisfying. But something else is bugging me, and that's my obsession with music and how it relates to my practical circumstances. I have to face the fact, that despite getting paid occasionally (mainly for covers gigs), I'm a friggin' amateur. Kudos & uplifting compliments do not obscure this fact. I feel that I'm a great "soul" musician, meaning that music stems from my formless being, and this is why I can play different instruments and blend into different styles of music, moreso than most of my peers. A bit like Brian Jones except I sing and write too. This is lovely and I am very grateful and I appreciate my talent because it gives me so much purpose and joy (too bad very few others feel the same way - we all navel-gaze in this business, it can't be helped), but I sense my that fervent, consuming ambitions - to be a good player, to do lots of gigs, to keep improving - are at odds with the fact that I'm charting the middle-age territory and really should focus on settling down. But I can't. I'm obsessed with playing, gigging, music. I'm looking forward to playing the gigs I've got this week, in three different ensembles. This is my whole life, man, and more than for most of my peers, that is, 'most', but not all.

I think I'm beginning to smell the odorous cracks of bitterness poring through me, despite my better judgment. I don't wish this to happen. I remember when I got into Eva Cassidy in 2004 and started to learn and play her music in a duo. I believed in Eva's gift then, to be thankful for our lives, to appreciate each other, the beauty of sound, the beauty of nature, the beauty of life. Somehow this feeling that Eva has billowed on me has dissipated to some degree, particularly when it comes to making music.

I want to play long sets. I wish to get paid again. I wish to play with other people. I certainly don't want fame or any of that terrible stuff, I wouldn't be able to handle it anyway. But I want respect and recognition of all of the work I've put into this. A damned lifetime of work. Of learning many instruments, learning songs, writing them, performing them. With myself and others. I've put this first, naturally enough given my love for it. But can I continue to make this my first priority throughout my life?? And if not, can I tame this obsessive beast within me? I'm becoming more driven musically than ever before. Some years ago I would have been content to live in a leafy country cottage in the verdant highlands. Now I'm not so sure.

And yet, my paid job beckons me. Here I support and encourage my clients who are all involved in the performing arts. I love that. What you give is what you get, after all. ;)


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