This protracted period of forced solitude and just my age, in general, have been instrumental in my recent musings about my life and so-called career as a musician.
One thing I have noticed for some time now is how people who are not involved in the music biz have some false notions about the reality of it. A comment I have heard many countless times goes something like this, “Gee, you are really good how come you never made it?”
This question used to annoy me for several reasons. First of all, I don’t like the implication that somehow I didn’t ‘make it.’ Second, who says I didn’t make it? Third, what is meant by the term ‘making it.’
I realize this comment was meant as a sort of compliment, but it proceeds from the false idea that fame equals success. When you look at the great number of musical artists who enjoyed great, and sometimes almost “obscene” fame, yet ended their life in misery, it becomes obvious that fame in and of itself is an inadequate reward.
I am aware of my worth and equally aware of my limitations. I have no illusions of grandeur and yet I know I have used my time well. Luckily I have lived long enough to gain this modicum of wisdom and self-realization.
This whole problem stems from what motivates a musician in the first place. For me, the priority was always (from the start) the music, and the “presentation” or “show biz’ aspect was secondary. I did very little to create an image. Even an “anti-image image” can be a pre-meditated approach.
When I was younger, I was vain and foolish enough to hope I would gain some sort of high notoriety, but when that eventuality didn’t avail itself, I adapted. I am good at adapting. In fact, I am somewhat of a virtuoso in terms of adaptation to reality. It is key to any sort of survival.
As a musical artist, I have re-invented myself several times and it is good and necessary to adapt. After all, in the end, these variations of self-reinvention are all still based on the essential personality that is never changing.
My philosophy these days is based on the concept of ‘karma yoga,’ which roughly means you do your work without expectation of reward. It is nice to be recognized and appreciated but it is not essential. The sooner a musician (or any artist for that matter) realizes this, the better.
Unfortunately, it took me quite some time to learn this. But better late than never.
In my estimation, I have ‘made it’ anyway. First, I have lived my life as a musician and made my own music. Second, I have recorded this music and it is easily available to anyone in the world. Third, I can never be a ‘has-been’ because I am always in the process of ‘becoming.’
I hope you are all well and keeping your distance. Here is a little music to hopefully brighten your day. Stay well. Reyn
(Composed and arranged by Reynold D. Philipsek copyright 1997
Zino-Rephi Music BMI)
“Some war, some peace,
All the happenstance between
Our two eternities in the meantime.
Is this an age of wonder or just Babylon?
A spectacular sunset mistaken
for a dawn at the same time?
Just where did the time fly?
20th Century Good-bye.
The rise and decline
of another chapter of mankind
in the meantime.
Is it random or design
that a million dates
All intertwine at the same time?
We all want to go
to heaven but we don’t want to die,
Like to take the plunge
but still keep dry in the meantime.”
Back in the late 1990’s as we faced the dawning of a new millennium I got all grandiose and decided to write an “epic” piece.
I wrote it for an “orchestra” which was comprised of 4 cellos, 4 violins, clarinet, euphonium, cornet, 2 flutes, harp, bass, piano, several vocal tracks, percussion, oboe and harp.
I started with my vocal and piano part. Very simple. With a click.
I then hired musicians either in groups (strings) and (winds) or individually like harp and oboe etc. In other words, lots of overdubs.
This was a long and arduous process for an autodidact like me but it turned out ok.
A somewhat ambitious project but in retrospect I am glad I did it. I certainly wouldn’t have the patience or energy for this sort of enterprise anymore.
The lyrics (which are always a tortuous task for me) don’t embarrass me and in fact seem rather apt for these days.
Out of necessity (because I was a novice at mounting this sort of effort) I had to keep things relatively simple and uncluttered.
I tried to (in a subtle way) simulate the ticking of a clock with various devices like shaker or pizzicato strings etc.
And, yes, the long chromatic rise and 20 beat pause at the end before the harp flourish is totally inspired by A Day In The Life.
Percussion-Gomez de Riquet
Trombone, cornet, euphonium- Zane Schaefer
Recording engineer-Brandon Lenz
(Photo from Long Ago, Far Away album cover was taken at Maurice Ravel’s piano in Montfort L’Amaury in France by Mary G. Philipsek)