Hemmed in Freedom

I’ve been blogging about three months now, since the middle of March. I’m feeling trapped, like I’ve cornered myself in some abstract corner, in an attempt to present something “high quality” rather than ruminate freely as in a semi-formal journal, which was my original intent.

Part of the problem is that I wonder if people enjoy reading what I write. Yes, I want to journalize, but I also want to write something worth reading. But that can also hamper freedom. Just as I wrote in this post about performing live, if a performance is too planned, it can become superficial, hollow. Ironically, it is a challenge to be focused and free at the same time, to structure free expression, hone it, tailor it, hem it in, without stifling it. How do I find the rhythm of my soul, that elusive vibration, to express here on these pages, without smothering it in trying?

Funny thing is, now that I’m commenting more on other blogs, I’m actually finding my ruminating “voice” there instead of here. And I love how the comments are commented by the original author. So some interesting strings develop with that interaction. All this is new to me. New and rewarding.

So, in the spirit of free flow expression, forgive me if I blab a bit, but I need to unclog the pipes, get the fresher juices flowing.

I’ve been under a lot of stress recently. I am not very skilled at managing multiple stresses. My job as a performer is difficult enough, but I have been on this search committee for a new music director here, and I have been put somewhat unwittingly in a hot seat. What I thought would be an artistic search turned into an arena of political struggle from within the orchestra. I became a representative of one of the sides. I am not a political person, but I have to stand for something. So I knew I had to follow through. I did my best. The power struggle arose in the form of certain candidates being strongly supported by one faction and other candidates by another faction. I braced for a draining struggle. Luckily, the situation became a lot easier for me when a late candidate demonstrated such powerful charisma and quality in his conducting that the orchestra was unified behind him.

But the problem still exists, in the form of resistance from non musician members of the search committee. They claim he will be hard to sell, he will have trouble raising money for the orchestra, that he cannot just be a good conductor. You see, the unifying candidate is Japanese, and is not fluent in English. But he gets his point across fine, and knows how to work a crowd, has a sense of humor, and communicates magnificently through his music making.

Now here’s the part that’s going to make you guffaw. Those members who are opposed to this candidate have not even seen or met him. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is what I’m up against. If these people had been on the committees of the New York Philharmonic, they would have eliminated Leonard Bernstein before they even met him because they heard he was gay. Or the Boston Symphony would not have hired Seigi Ozawa because of his English. How absurd! It doesn’t matter if the conductor is a genius, if he will do great things for the orchestra, if ALL the musicians are united behind him (which is a miracle in itself). Never mind that the political rift in the orchestra could be healed. No, those are irrelevant details. No, despite never having set eyes on this person, never having heard his music making, never having heard his cute, charming sense of humor, no, these dissenters just KNOW he won’t work, period. Pre-judging. Prejudiced.

So we have to wait until we can see him again for those presumptuous dissenters to decide. I’m all for having them visit with him. But I fear nothing will change a mind so closed.

It’s disheartening to see things like this. I guess it’s just part of the “real” world. I haven’t given up. I plan to work on those members, trying gently to show them what the musicians have seen, hopefully using non-confrontational approaches. If I believe in what I am supporting. Hopefully, using my strong belief in the positive effects this candidate can have, I can sway them. That’s a lot of hope!

In all cases; in performance, in blogging, in politics, it’s a fine line, a razor’s edge, which offers quality freedom. Freedom without limitations is basically chaos, anarchy, a dream. The opposite is a stifling prison, communism, fear, living death. The middle road is hemmed in freedom; freedom within one’s given situation, goodness within anarchy, structure within chaos, creation from destruction, hope within fear.

5 thoughts on “Hemmed in Freedom

  1. That’s one of the great things about blogging. You can write whatever you feel. Even ‘free ruminations’ can be ‘high quality’….or not.

    As for your current problem…well, I’ll just say that ‘politics’ can be found in every situation. From the tiniest church/school/job/whatever meetings right on up to Capitol Hill. I’ve always found it quite entertaining…as long as I’m not in the middle of all the machinations.

  2. I have discovered one cannot predict what will elicit a response from the reader. And even response is no indicator as to whether or not someone is enjoying the writing. I have talked with folks who have been lurking (reading without commenting) for months.

    If you write to please yourself, that is probably all that needs happen. The audience will select you.

  3. re: “So, in the spirit of free flow expression, forgive me if I blab a bit, but I need to unclog the pipes, get the fresher juices flowing”–this truly works. And yes, as you noted, sometimes the blabbing yields what intentionally artful craft does not. I can identify with the politics and the stress resulting; we are a strange species. Thanks for the comment on Theriomorph, have changed my settings accordingly.

  4. How fascinating to read a musician’s perspective on hiring a new conductor!

    For what it’s worth, I agree with the substance of your remarks about freedom – though I might’ve picked slightly different words, given that I am more-or-less an anarchist (or left libertarian-communitarian, if you prefer). I’ve always felt that artistic freedom is the best model for what political freedom could and should be, because without immense discipline and hard work and the willingness to select fairly arbitrary frames to work within, you end up with nothing of value. I would only add the caveat that, powerful as the Western “Creation” metaphor may be, we should resist the temptation to impose simliar restrictions upon our perceptions of nature, which is, practically by definition, boundless (in response to another post of yours). I believe that wild, untrammelled nature is an essential source of inspiration – not merely for artists, but for anyone who strives for freedom. The biggest current threat to freedom in my view is the growing spread of the managerial ideology, whether in its state socialist or corporatist forms, because it does not recognize any value in wildness. But I suppose every totalistic ideology – any belief system that tries to explain everything, and doesn’t admit the existence of anything outside its own frames – is similarly dangerous.

    I could go on, but I just wanted to say thanks for linking to Via Negativa, and keep blogging!

  5. Thanks for the comments. And for the support regarding bloggy blabbing. What started out as blabbing ended up focusing me on what was bothering me. That’s the beauty of blogging, venting can elicit an unexpected result, and may elicit valuable advice from fellow bloggers.

    Davd-Wow, lots of really interesting thoughts. I agree that “managerial ideology” is dangerous. One of the most important aspects of capitalist democracy is its adaptability. It’s unfortunate that corporate thinking has geared the free flow of ideas toward profit or influence rather than quality. I even see that perspective creeping into our orchestra board’s attitude. That’s what’s so frustrating to me. It’s more important that we have a music director who can fund raise than one who is a brilliant musician.

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