Dancing about architecture

I sometimes wonder, as Thursday afternoon rolls around and I'm staring at a blank computer screen where a blog posting should be, how actual writers deal with writer's block. Are there trade secrets to which I'm not privy because I'm merely an occasional blogger? Possibly. Here's what I've tried this afternoon:

  • Continue staring at the blank screen.
  • Check Facebook. Anything inspiring/enraging/engaging?
  • Check calendar for the past week. What have I actually done with myself since I last wrote?

And then, it hit me. COFFEE. And, one fresh stovetop americano later, here I am.

Actually, it was the last step in the short list above - checking my calendar - which helped me to remember that in the past few days I've had some great conversations about music. I've heard it said that talking about music is like dancing about architecture. And on some level, I agree. How can we quantify in words that which must be enjoyed aurally? As someone who strongly chafed against what I perceived to be rampant over-analysis in high school and then university English classes, I sometimes want to say, "Stop talking and just listen!" (Or, as I remember saying in one class, "Isn't it possible that it's just a poem about a pot?")

The conversations I've had in the past few days, though, haven't been so much about the music itself - they have been about the philosophy, the logistics, the challenges of presenting music. On Monday, for example, I had lunch with a colleague who asked a lot of questions about why certain things happen the way they do at the festival. It was interesting to hear his perspective, a unique challenge to express in words what I so clearly feel, and invigourating to go back and forth with someone who knows a fair bit about the music business himself.

Tuesday night I got to hear insight - from two different club owners from two different provinces - into the pitfalls, perils and plusses (not a spectacular example of alliteration, that...) of running a jazz club. Lunch on Tuesday was with a fellow Artistic Director, and was spent chatting about why we each present music, how we might reach new audiences, why we should (or shouldn't) run venues, and more.

So how does all this chatting relate to the product that's finally put on stage? In several ways, as far as I'm concerned. Artists and venues are not chosen in a vacuum. Much thought goes into each booking - will a particular artist or venue resonate with the audience? Is the venue right for the artist and the audience? What kinds of shows should be presented at a jazz festival? Year-round? At its core, what does a jazz festival need in order to thrive?

As I've said before, if I ever think I know the answers to all of these questions, I'll know it's time to resign. Despite what I sometimes think, there is no way that I will ever know all of the answers. The opportunity to chat with other people on various sides of the business is vital - whether it's being challenged on my philosophies on booking a festival, or gaining new insight into how venues run behind the scenes, or discovering new opportunities to develop audiences - conversations with colleagues are a big part of what keeps me inspired and refreshed, and sometimes even force me to review my viewpoints on a variety of topics. I won't necessarily change my mind, but it's good to be reminded that my opinion is not the only one out there.

Talking about an art form will never replace the art form itself, and those who choose to talk about art without actually experiencing it are, in my view, missing out. But the two are not mutually exclusive: without discussing why we do the things we do, and why we make certain choices, I think it's easy to lose our way.

Josh

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