Where I’m at, late 2014 edition


Note: I wrote this mostly for my own head, as well as those close to me and/or involved in my ongoing projects. Enjoy.

Happy Thanksgiving/Thanks-For-Nothing/Buy-Nothing-Ferguson-Day eve. It’s that dreadful-as-in-dread-filled time of the year again, but I’m coping, close to happy, even.

Save for Twitter, my budding firebrand-as-public-persona self has been on hiatus for a while now. The last time I was on tour was spring of 2010. (Note the stylish use of scarf, and the ample side-eye at life in general.) At the end of the tour, I realized after talking it over with my tour mates that I needed to up my music producing skills. I had things in my head, my hands, my heart, and while I could make all those things real, they weren’t quite cooked. This, while the global economy was in triage, no less.

Further, on a day-to-day level, I was beginning to realize the very cheap apartment I scored was coming with a price to the tune of gentrifying neighbors (who somehow couldn’t understand why running their car near my front door to the point of near-asphyxiation was a bad idea) and deleterious fuckery overall. So I moved. All well, all good. A slow process, but I was putting together the pieces.

Then in 2012? My mom died.

Somehow, I managed to transmute the expected year-of-flaming-incoherent-grief into something useful, beyond the required process that grief itself entails. I found a school to learn music technology at, without moving to NYC or LA and shelling out ten grand for a certificate whose main utility is teaching things I was teaching myself + industry connections. Which as always, means “maybe, industry connections” which means being the usual oblong peg in the obtuse hole I always am, so, erm, fuck it. I’ll just balance self-learning, public college learning, and being a grieving emotional train wreck the way I do, thank you very much. I completed the bulk of the core curriculum work in my program (enough to get myself an AA degree if I needed it, which I don’t at this point in my life, thankfully). I got a new place, focused on the work, slowly worked my way through the process, and settled in.

Which brings things to the present. Contemporary music production makes sense now, and in keeping, I remastered some tracks I did in 2013, and re-released them for free. I’m still in a toxic (and much more expensive) apartment counties away from my old neighborhood, but I can at least regulate the toxicity – the creeping black stuff is just in the drain, see? it’s no longer bubbling up at random in the kitchen sink, clean it out, and we’re good – and writing is coming along nicely. So, what’s next?

I need to figure out if grad school (again) is an option. I got my MFA in writing back in 2005, and everything that’s available seems like a major-yet-temporary step backwards into undergraduate work (English, Performance Studies, Music Composition), or a somewhat far afield step forwards (same + Music Improvisation + very expensive private MFA programs). It does feel like there’s some sort of there there though, so I’m persisting in shopping around. Graduate work in Music Technology is a possibility, but I’m working to stay focused on creative and theoretical work, more than slogging through production-level work yet again. The better I get at all of this, the more uncomfortable multitasking through someone else’s ideas on multiple deadlines becomes. #nerdproblems Also, Technocultural Studies is starting to emerge as a discipline, and things going well, may work its way into graduate programs. So, work-in-progress.

Creatively, I’m closing in on what the proper balance between music, writing and performance is for me. Songwriting has been getting the short shrift for a while now, but is slowly coming into focus. Page-based poetry appears to be working towards prose, although it remains to be seen how much of that translates into writing novels and short stories (again), or how much of it is part of writing free verse in the 21st century. As a musician, I seem to have a decent balance going, although I’m working my way through understanding how much my work is around being a producer, how much it’s around being a composer, and if those sorts of distinctions are even relevant to what I do anymore.

There’s also my ongoing complicated relationship with technology. I worked as a tech writer for years, and burned out on that. Looked into interactive multimedia, then the entire industry collapsed in on itself. Walked on tech overall after the dot-com bust, performed, lived, shared, got by. Was making headway with becoming a tech editor, then the economy tanked — again. Eventually managed to get a gig doing ePub technical production, which I hated, mostly because of the deadline pressures and the Mad Men-like culture around some corners of the publishing industry. It’s not much of a stretch to say that the industry and myself aren’t a fit — and yet, the desire to design things with code keeps coming up. I think where I’m at with tech is that I’m a creative sort of nerd – give me a problem that’s artistic in nature, and what were mind-numbing, soul-deadening problems around programming and development suddenly become balanced and workable. Unfortunately, creative coding is barely even an industry at present, but that is changing. Slow, patient progress on this front, but progress nonetheless.

Last but not least, there’s activism. Throughout most of the last decade, I juggled (and frequently combined) performance work, writing and street activism in a number of ways. As non-profits moved into that sphere, doing that work started to become less of a fit, in the same ways that working with the ACLU wasn’t a fit. I’m not a mainstream, polite resistance sort of girl; the only reason I was able to persist in the corporate tech world for as long as I did is that I made myself indispensable, or at the very least, the most profitable hire on the list. (I can’t honestly say I’m proud of this, but I did what I could, and after a lot of angst, got out.) If I’m ever going to do that sort of thing again, my place is in the streets. No more collective houses though, they damp my vibe.

All in all, it’s still a time of transition, but it appears to be coming to a collective point of resolution. Here’s to 2015, and whatever it may bring. Onward.