As the year winds down, and the decade winds down, and the "best of" lists appear, and the Grammy lists appear, and the momentous political issues of our day acquire a screaming white-hot intensity, and I embark upon my forty-first year on this planet, and the first frost arrives, and my kid really hits her stride with the whole kindergarten thing, and the scent of grand fir fills the house, and I madly plan for the next phase of my "career," and another stack of B-movies arrives in the mail, and...
And, and, and. As all this is going on, here I am, just trying to relax and savor the experience of being alive. It's a struggle sometimes.
Other times, it's not. Last night, as I was goofing off at the piano, Thandie brought over a book of Christmas carols (donated by one of the well-meaning grandparents, no doubt, because neither of her parents are huge fans of Christmas carols) and demanded I play. Before I knew it, all three of us were singing "Silent Night" and other such dreck. It was like a friggin' Irving Berlin musical come to life -- except that it was real, and my usual defenses against sentimentality were all but annihilated. I just went with the energy.
And it was remarkable. And then... it was wonderful.
It's interesting that we were singing, though, because the incident reminded me one of my favorite lines in the history of songwriting, c/o Paul Simon:
Sometimes even music cannot substitute for tears.
Yes. I hear that as a nod toward the "music is everything / music is nothing" idea, but it's also another way of saying art only attains its "importance" experientially. Making art is itself an experience, of course, but so are a lot of other things. And only making art never makes for good art. In my own case, I know that sometimes I forget to put my own obsessive creativity in the context of, you know, the rest of the cosmos. Over the last five years I have discovered that that sort of narrow-mindedness is particularly irrelevant when you have a kid. It's a discovery for which I am grateful.
The public perception of the modern musician-Dad has generally been negative. Male musicians, according to this general view, just aren't involved in their kids' lives, because of the demands of touring, or for worse reasons. Historically, this perception is probably grounded in a certain amount of truth.
I won't say we've fixed whatever the underlying problem is, but I have noticed that, in this era of digital communication and the technologies of DIY music production, and undoubtedly because of the hard work of generations of feminists, there is now a noticeable contingent of dude musicians who, if the internets are to be believed, are downright wrapped up in raising their own offspring, while simultaneously continuing to define themselves as musicians. Off the top of my head, that list would include folks like Chris Schlarb, Kris Tiner, Chris Kelsey, Ward Baxter, Tim DuRoche, Rob Mader, Josh Sinton, Nate Trier, Gary Lawrence Murphy. And so on.
That too, seems remarkable.
I am not offering a New Age-y paean to fatherhood here. Raising kids in general is not for everyone, and if you're opposed to or offended by it, you'll never have to sit through a boostery lecture from the likes of me. To each his or her own, I say. But whatever your feelings on the subject, "dude musicians who are downright wrapped up in the lives of their offspring" seems to bode well, in some small way, for art and life now, and art and life in the future.