Friday, June 09, 2006

Mortality, immortality, and critics

Came across this crazy picture of Frank Zappa tonight, courtesy of European superfan Paul Berkholst.

I know Zappa was no sentimentalist, but this image, taken shortly before his death, moved me. Maybe it's because we took Thandie to the beach the other day, and she panicked when I tried to show her that the ocean was nothing to be scared of by wading into it. It was as if she was afraid that all that water was going to wash me away, mercilessly. It wasn't like I wasn't already aware of the extent to which little kids depend on their parents... but that moment was something more, something that cut straight to an awareness that I'm not going to be on this fucking planet forever.

How does one live completely? In my case, I want to be a great artist and a great human being (father, husband, friend). Is the tradeoff, well, dying of prostate cancer at age 53? I used to think I was willing to make that kind of sacrifice -- one of the reasons I've developed such poor sleep habits. (Health be damned! There's more music to be written!) Now I'm not so sure. I need another solution.

It doesn't help when the rest of the world is unbelievably slow catching up with the "art" part. But thanks to Mr. Berkholst, I discovered more forcefully than ever before that Zappa went through the same shit. Here, for instance, is a clipping from PB's collection (check out his blog at the site above): a generally bad review of a live performance with the LSO (you'll need to click on it to read it):

(Who the fuck is "Howard Brubeck," by the way?)

The IJG actually hasn't gotten many bad reviews, though there are a few if you search for them (google "Industrial Jazz Group" and "Ken Waxman" sometime). But we definitely haven't "broken through" like we should have by now. I've started imagining myself stuck in the same pattern when I'm 80: writing strange, beautiful, interesting music, and continuing to be unable to afford to keep a band together.

This is a scary time to be an artist.

1 comment:

JasonN said...

All parents struggle with the reality that we trade off work for time, passionate commitment for health, etc. I can completely relate. Recently, my youngest started sitting by my elbow watching my work, intently. She recently announced, "I want to build websites, just like you Dad!"

I audibly mumbled, "I wouldn't wish it on you," in front of one of my contractors.

But, it made me take a big pause, and consider the kind of example I am to her. I think, mostly I'm a pretty good guy. But, I wouldn't wish my work habits on her. I hope that she'll be much happier and content in her life. I stuggle, in a much different "art" than you, with the success I've often found elusive. In my case, I'm often angry that I've not pushed harder, 'broken through' in my own field.

She doesn't understand that what I do is much more than 'build websites,' and that I am building a company, a business to leave my progeny, if not the business itself, the things its success will buy, like an education and opportunities. And, there's another (intangible) big thing: pride!

Her adolation doesn't so much give me pride, as scare me. Maybe I should slow down and just hang out with her a bit more. Maybe she'll say "I want to be a lot of fun, just like you Dad!"