For your consideration, one of the more more ethereal sections in the book as opposed to the more technical aspects that come later in the book.
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1: This business is esoteric.
(From “The Tao of Gigging”)
There are some things I want to tell you and share with you about this business and this calling of music. Let me begin by saying that this is an esoteric business, meaning it can be very elusive, mysterious, and confusing. (This is not it’s literal meaning, which can be found by looking it up, something I am always telling my students)
A lot of this information it is not musical, but just life stuff, that was passed down musically and socially by performers and musicians, which makes it totally relevant to this book. How people interact, and talk, why the winners won, and why the losers lost, who profited the most, who sacrificed the most, and our story.
When I say our story, I mean the story of all of us who gig, and how we came to be what we are and who was involved, and who built and created a lot of the things we take for granted like the touring circuit, and staging, and the development of road crews, and managers, and how the rules of the road came into being.
Many people never stop to think that there was a time before any of these things existed.
There was. This thing we are involved in, was created abroad and in the United States, from the tradition of old Operas, plays, street performers, magicians and comedians who did “gags”, (from which the word “gig” is thought to have come) traveling dance troupes, and other performers have essentially built the framework of the business we all occupy now, and we inherited a vast amount of culture and rules along with some time honored language and traditions, with roots in the traditions, oral and written, of every people, and every continent on earth. Like our DNA, we are all interconnected in this craft and this calling, that has been going on since the creation of fire and a place to sit.
Some of these are in the music itself, and some are just slang we use to describe what we do, terms like roadie, gig, the hit, and vaudeville expressions like “break a leg” and “knock em’ dead” Others are as deep as the awesome commitment by family, fans, and supporters, upon which we all rely in order to have even the barest amount of function in this medium which is one of sharing and interpretation.
A lot of things have changed since these formative days in the business, but the framework, and the basic philosophy is still vital anywhere the rubber meets the road, or rather when actually playing musicians travel and congregate. Things like the teacher student-relationship, agreements, traveling relationships, and also the things that a lot of us come back home to, like unexpected quiet, depression, loved ones who we become a little out of touch with, and unfinished business we have avoided while playing and traveling. These things never change. And everyone wants something. There is nothing wrong with that.
We are in a business populated with hungry souls. I wish I could prepare you for that, that awesome desire, and longing found in our calling, and the gravity that it will exert on your heart and life, but I cannot. I can only tell you that it is there. And that you will surely feel it. The nature of our business is very subtle, and you will find things that affect your life in some very non musical ways, like your marriage, your family, your beliefs, your finances, your religion, and in a lot of other unexpected areas, with unexpected side effects.
When I say subtle, I mean a lot of things in this profession simply cannot be taught, or understood without experiencing them first hand. You also come to know people and events that are practically unknown, but have affected everything around them. It’s like a tapestry made of people and each thread counts for something. For those of us who have been doing this a long time, there is a sense of family, and support. We’re like a silent union, and our members all share some of the same language, manner, and interests.
One of the main things I get asked about is how to present things to the public, and to fellow and potential band members, investors, and the media.
Presentation is very important in this field, which is all about presentation.
Your look, your voice, your manner, clothing, and affectations, and the timing in which you use these things will all impact your performing life greatly, and contrary to popular belief it’s not about who can dress, talk or sing the loudest. It’s about how interesting you find yourself. People, who are easily bored with others, are themselves easily boring and the public can sense this, and will happily ignore them. One of the most endearing traits a singer or performer can have is that hunger for of self-exploration, because so many people in these times feel out of touch with themselves, and the world around them. Technology has not solved this and has in some ways made it worse, with people isolating like crazy, while thinking they are connecting with others because they make daily check in’s on facebook, or pintrest.
Part of the work of all performers is to reconnect people with their own inner sense of adventure, and to heal hurt feelings about love, loss, family, and the human condition. In being a performer you are a doctor, here to use your highest intelligence and compassion to heal people who have come to have an experience.
This is one of the reasons that a lot of artists come from incredibly troubled backgrounds, and are often deeply wounded people. We, (I am one of these people) know about heartbreak and pain, spiritual warfare, and personal victory. We can also baffle the hell out of people around us, and be positively heartbreaking and confusing for our lovers, and spouses, and partners. Confusion can be a part of dating any artist, and there are entire books dedicated to trying to understand us, recover from us, live with us understand us, and basically survive us.
However, it is from this kind of unrest in ourselves that exploration, and revelation come, and while these qualities are common among all people, we write, sing, dance, make art, and perform around it. Unrest is about movement and discovery, and no one is more unrestful than artists. We also have notorious and often well-deserved reputations in regards to our use of drugs, our sexual inclinations, and mental illnesses. This is not really news to anyone in this industry. Still, they are to an extent, stereotypes.
Drugs and the arts have gone hand in hand for thousands of years, and as much as I abhor drug use, (this comes from first hand experience) a strong argument can be made, that without, Alcohol, opiates, stimulants, depressants, psychedelics, and psychotropics, There would not be Classical, blues, Rock, Latin, or any other of the current globally popular styles of music. All of these musical forms sprung up in environments where people were deliberately altering their states of mind. This music itself also creates strong neurological effects on the human brain and body.
My point here is that the people, environments, and encounters in arts and music are about one thing. State change. Altered states of awareness, and perception. People are looking, and have been looking for thousands of years for bliss, the secrets of the universe, the meaning of love, and to delve into the mystery of this life, and as a result we live in a world that prizes state changes in awareness, and things that facilitate it, like music, drugs, sex, and group gatherings. There is not much difference in my mind between a group of Neanderthals banging on rocks under a full moon, and seeing the SF symphony. We are all basically creatures seeking connection with a mysterious and deep universe, and using motion and sound, we say to the lonely and vast empty universe, “We are here! We Exist! And then listen for the echoes. It is for this reason that the arts are now and have always been a beautiful way to soothe the loneliness of the human condition.
I often tell my students that we are in the practice of spiritual chiropractic, helping people move better, and feel things more deeply, and I have noticed over the years, that people coming to events are emotionally and spiritually hungry. They long to hear put in words, the things they cannot say, or the things they are not allowed to say because of their social position, or work. And they long to see living human examples of emotions they suppress like love, jealousy, pity, sadness, rapture, lust, and anger.
When you settle on being a performer your life becomes a lightning rod for all these emotions, because you simply cannot sing or dance about something you have no knowledge of. And worry not, you will come to know these things intimately.
If you choose to refer to yourself with the word “Artist” fate will step in and give you an education in all those things, I can promise you that. And these people, these crowds of hungry, seeking, lusty, friendly, and driven people will feel you, and remember you, and the times you spent together, no matter if it was in a tiny club, or a giant stage. You become a part of their story, and history, and hopefully, a part of their healing.
I don’t like throwing new-agey language around, but this calling is about spiritual healing, and warriorship. Over time, with training, and experience, you may become a tremendous force for healing and progress among humans, and a force for positive change in the world.
But first, we must train.
©Piero Amadeo Infante, 2015, for “The Tao Of Gigging”