May 21, 2014
I don’t have time for a blog, do I? No way. I had just completed my soon-to-be released book, Music Direction For The Stage: A View From The Podium, when I took on two new music direction jobs, one for a show in production, the other in development. This was in addition to three other shows I was helping to develop (they are dormant at the moment), subbing on keyboards on two Broadway shows, and finishing a semester of teaching at NYU with twelve, count ‘em, twelve private students. (I was probably in class more hours than any two tenured faculty at any university combined.) How could I possibly find time to launch a website that would expand upon and promote my book?
Yet in the book I emphasize, in both methodology and subject matter, the importance of context and process in music direction. Therefore my embarking on these new work experiences would give me the chance to relate on-the-job experiences in context and in process, in the real world and in real time. My running commentary could further exemplify the various tasks and processes that are the subjects of my text. That is, of course, if only I had time.
When my mental RAM has had space for it (it’s pretty well clogged and fragmented with thoughts pertaining to my professional obligations), I’ve thought a good bit about how to write serially, as in this weblog, rather than in book form, where I can pre-organize. In the book I observed music direction “in order,” that is, through the preproduction, production, rehearsal, and performance of a stage show. In similar fashion, my 1995 doctoral dissertation (in composition) chronicled the compositional process in creating a piece of music from beginning to end. The informal technique of journal-keeping that I used in that study (based on the writings of Ira Progoff, much of whose work as a psychologist and philosopher centers on analysis of creativity and the creative process) seems to recur whenever I discuss music in action. This makes perfect sense, as music is temporal in its unfolding and in its perception, and temporal, too, on another level, in its development and realization.
The solution I reached for this website, unlike those larger formats, is to present a series of essays, and perhaps some groups of mini-essays, on topics that arise out of my work on the aforementioned productions and others, from the questions and issues my students and colleagues raise regularly, and from the topics of discussion among my colleagues. Without the organizational constraints of a large text, I am able to deal with these matters in the order they occur to me, rather than trying to follow an outline. In this blog I can add to and elaborate upon topics from the book, and update information in a profession and an artistic climate that are constantly updating themselves.
For a variety of reasons, I’m unable to go into too much detail on the projects I’m working on–in each case, the material and creative process of the work are somewhat proprietary, and giving away too much about such works-in-progress would violate the sanctity of the creative environment, not to mention expose entertainments that are not yet prepared to go before the public. For one project in its infancy, the writers stipulated that I sign a nondisclosure agreement that prohibits me from discussing the content of the piece in any way. Even without such pacts, professional ethics disbar my revealing too much. So I will do my best to excerpt elements that will be interesting to examine in depth, but in such a way as to avoid invading anyone’s privacy. My subbing as a keyboard player allows me to offer observations from the other side of the podium. But again, discussing the shows or the strengths and shortcomings of their musical leadership would be a breach of professional etiquette. So please forgive in advance any syntactical sidestepping that results from my guarding privileged properties, and my own career. Likewise, many people have asked me to review in the blog the productions I’ve seen. Whereas I am tempted, I fear that any overly incisive opinions might land me on the blacklist, and rightly so, in some ways.
In the end, I think…I hope…I can remain unbiased enough, and more crucially, find time in my schedule, to handle the requirements of all these simultaneous undertakings. Somehow I have always managed to make it all fit: the daily practicing, the arranging, the organizing, casting, contracting, phone calls, creative meetings, and performances…and now, writing this blog. I look forward in the coming months to sharing my experiences with whoever is following this series, getting some fruitful discussions started and stirring up some good controversies–only through challenging the status quo will I attain my book’s stated goal of improving on the profession of music direction and maintaining its excellence in all echelons of the creative world. I encourage my readers’ questions and dissent; please feel free to respond with any commentary you feel is relevant.
Joe Church, May 21, 2014