Musician and Soldier: Problematic or Prolific
Often I find myself asking, "How can I be doing this? I find that my role in the military and my musical goals are both completely comprehensive tasks. At this particular time in my life, my reaction to the sound of AK-47 fire is comparable to how I once perceived the sound of a passing car. One other, of many examples, is the call for prayer that resonates throughout Baghdad more than five times a day. These "prayer callers sing verses from the Koran through horribly loud speakers. The only likable comparison that comes to mind is the ringing of church bells, which is no doubt a European tradition. However, this is hardly a fair comparison. When church bells ring you don't see hundreds of people unrolling prayer rugs and turning to face Mecca, bowing and singing verses from their holy book. This type of passion is not evident in the modern American consciousness, where true devotion to anything is hard to find in a public form. What a strange place. Never underestimate Man's ability to adapt to new environments.
So, how does this environmental evolution translate for the musician? I initially thought that I would lose my musical identity in its entirety upon receiving my deployment orders. However, in the long run, I have found that this change in environment has totally united all the individual parts of my musical identity. I am most definitely not the musician I dreamed I'd be, having just passed my twenty-fifth birthday. On the other hand, I now find no question about music. The fabled stories about Charlie Parker come to mind. I had heard, in my earliest days as an aspiring pianist in New Orleans, that Bird would strive for spontaneity in his soloing by partaking in random adventures, such as jumping into trash dumpsters during set breaks.
Inspiration seems to be the one necessary concept in art. There's no question in my mind that Bird had absolutely no questions about music. He played his life though his horn. What could anyone possibly say that would contradict anything that Bird was living through his horn? Clearly, Bird had the insight to see different experiences as food for inspiration. I often think of tenor player, Sonny Rollins' escape from the limelight, retreating to "the bridge", where he sought inspiration and a new conception. What about the artist who comes to realize these things not by choice? Chet Baker comes to mind. After having his teeth knocked out, it seemed that he might have never played trumpet again. Surprisingly, Chet did learn to play again and in a totally new way which many people believe to be his most notable work. Other artists throughout history can be sighted as being most prolific in their most adverse circumstances. e.e. cummings wrote The Enormous Room while incarcerated in a French jail during World War I. Additionally, Oliver Messiaen wrote Quartet for the End of Time while in a Nazi concentration camp.
After observing these examples, one can see how it is beneficial to view adverse circumstances as opportunities to be exploited. In my case, it's hard to imagine another musician who could create while exploiting the experiences of a Counter Intelligence Agent in Iraq. It is even harder to imagine someone who would want this opportunity. It could be said that good judgment, such as creativity, comes from experience. However, the often overlooked and essential ingredient in finding good judgment is bad experience. If a musician lives a life of practice, when he goes to play all that will come out is practice. If an individual writes music from the perspective of a life of locking himself in a university practice room, he will write music about practicing. Of course this happens only on a very subconscious level. However, this subconscious level is where all things sacred and holy come from as an artist. How boring is a song about practicing scales. This individual might have knowledge and past experiences to draw from, which would result in the creation of good art. However, knowledge as a starting point for art is problematic in nature. I think this point highlights one problem that exists in the music community today. Too much thought is given to thought. I am not implying that musical academia should be discarded. However, when dealing with the creation of art, thought seems to get in the way. It is my belief that true art can only come from the subconscious, that is, things that can never totally be thought of.