Saturday, July 18, 2009

Music and SQL

Saw and interesting bit over at the Reverse Cowgirl:

Interesting post you wrote about writing and money. I made my living as a writer during those wonderful late 1990 and early 2000 days you mentioned in your first post. 45 cents a word for practically anything I wanted to do. Great time to be doing that, free money and easy work. I also made my rent money as a guitar player for a few years of my life. Obviously I didn't get rich, but I know what it's like to get paid for one's 'art' and to compromise it. It got depressing after a while, but the lifestyle was great and there were still the cool, great gigs I could enjoy. Call it turning tricks or whatever, I just used the phrase, 'You take the king's shilling, you play the king's tune.'

I spent the weekend in NYC doing a two day music workshop where I got to meet one of my musical heroes, and not just meet him but play with him. It was amazing, and reminded me of why I started music in the first place. There were probably 75 other people there, all or nearly all of them many years younger than I. They were almost universally talented, optimistic, and hell bent as making it in music on their own terms. They were the antithesis of the stereotype of the lazy musician, they already had indie labels they started, they were gigging anywhere they could get, and they were sure it was just a matter of time until it was their turn to get on the ride. I wanted to tell them, 'Just so ya know, it ain't gonna happen. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try, because you'll hate yourself if you don't, but just because you think you're choosing failure or death doesn't mean you won't wind up with both.' I wanted to tell them about my most accomplished guitar teacher, a guy I took lessons from when I was about twenty. He was a legitimately well-known jazz player who had seen so much failure, including losing two wives mostly because he refused to give up music as his living, that he actually had come to hate music. Not hate drummers who are late and singers who can't come in on cue and staying in awful motels to make $150 at 2 AM. We all hated that shit, but he hated music itself, for what it had done to him and what it had refused to do for him. I vowed that whenever I got close to that I'd find something else to do so I at least would still love music.

And I did. After washing out of both the music and writing rackets I program databases now. I still make my own music, people still seem to like it on the rare occasion it's heard, and I still write. In fact, I write for a blog run by some of my favorite writers in the world and I do it for free, because I know they're broke and need the money and I don't. So by scything my 'art' off from my money I've kept my art pure, and it's still fun when I do it.

On the other hand, my money is what's impure now. It comes from prostituting my brain to do something 8-12 hours per day that I don't care about. Financial reporting does not speak to my heart, I do not pine for more hours in which I can write SQL code. I use a mind capable of producing decent music and better than decent prose for digital greasemonkey work. So, I guess the moral of the story is that you're fucked either way, there just isn't a lot of purity to go around.

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