Skater kids & Bepop

Discipline is losing out in these quarantined times. Business brain, or at least, "Ambitious Brain", is jumping on the opportunity to release as much music as possible while people are stuck in their homes. I even received a grant from the government to keep on recording and plugging away. But this self imposed production schedule has me shying away from doing what I love most: playing the piano. It feels like a job and therefore I don't want to do it. I sit down and press record and can't get a decent take. Then I try and edit the parts together, eliminate the bum notes, but it's more work than just playing the damn thing right.

So far I haven't been able to record a single take from beginning to end with the right vibe and the right accuracy. And I wrote the pieces myself! So instead of trying over and over again I pick up a book or watch a movie.

I believe it's okay to do this, even though for some damn reason I feel guilty. Like it's my job now. I'm getting paid to do it. So therefore, being my own boss, I'm very lenient...

Leniency = Guilt.

Is there any escape?

So I must remember the process. Reading, listening, consuming, skimming Youtube like a brain-dead zombie -- at what point do you impose discipline on yourself?

I watched Dogtown and Z-Boys last night. Californian surfer kids from the early 70s who went on to basically create the modern skateboarding style and aesthetic as we know it. Did those kids procrastinate from honing their craft? No. Their craft was their "procrastination" from the responsibilities of being poor and American. It was their vocation. Their "passion". Their calling. They just played. And in playing they revolutionised a national hobby and kickstarted a massive industry.

In 1940s New York, Thelonious Monk played piano for hours on end, just because he could. He'd meet up with his friends at Minton's Playhouse and they'd egg each other on, just like those Californian skater kids three decades later, and revolutionise a craft and kickstart an industry. Sure, he probably practised scales. Sure, they knew their music theory. But they applied it because it was fun. Because it became intuitive. Because they had each other to bounce off.

So I took that attitude back to my music. The old grainy footage of long-haired kids riding empty swimming pools in suburban LA oddly made me nostalgic for nineties suburban Canberra. I played music all day and rode my skateboard (badly) up at the local underpass. I didn't apply "discipline" to my playing but I'd play for hours on end. And I got good. Real good. And distinctive too.

But then you become an adult. You start to consciously try to apply the 10,000 hour rule in the hopes that deliberate practise will make you a genius and the world will applaud and help you pay the rent. You plot a series of albums and stylistic shifts and you learn scales and how to read music and for the cognitive challenge you commit to learning Rachmaninoff and Ravel. But after a while you don't even want to play anymore. Because it sucks. And you may as well just get a normal job (not that there's any going right now).

And you procrastinate your passion by walking out on the trails, racing thunderstorms down mountains, planning long distance hikes and watching Youtube videos about people who build remote cabins and live off the grid for decades...

And then you realise. Fuck it. Just play. Because it's fun. Like in the nineties when you had long hair and sang badly in front of the entire school.

Nobody wants to hear self-conscious disciplined exercise anyway. Just have a little faith in the magic. Be dumb. Switch off your brain. Hit the same note for hours or close your eyes and play until something interesting happens. Ride a concrete wave. Be Thelonious Monk. Be yourself.



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