Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Keeping it Moving

You know those scenes in movies where the writer just can't get it right, crumples up a sheet of paper and tosses it into the trash can, where you see about a dozen other failed attempts? Well, I've been having that with this blog posting and I have to tell you, it's a shade less artistic when you click 'select-all' and press 'delete'. Some things get lost in the technology I guess.

I've been back in Malaysia since May of 2008, which makes it fairly long interim before heading to New Zealand in February 2010. There's a certain restlessness that comes from this - a lot of the musical opportunities require a commitment to stay on longer. In this industry there are really no part-time summer jobs, though there are sporadic freelancing possibilities. The MPO auditions every two years. And the local universities... well, shall we say they function in ways complex. Basically, I realized when I turned 30 that I'm in the centuries-old tradition of the wandering musician. The vagabond. The gypsy.

On the positive side though it's given me the opportunity to help fresh some old networks, and build a whole lot of new branches from them. The plan is to get some name recognition, show a bit of what you're capable of, and the next time I'm back for summer holidays have something to do. I've explored with a certain amount of success the art of organizing a one-off event, whether it's a masterclass, workshop, or seminar. The trickier thing is creating a niche where one doesn't quite exist yet. Which makes it somewhat difficult to pitch to people in the market who aren't familiar with it, which isn't that surprising: you can find out a lot easier if someone is a good musician, but it takes a lot more groundwork to establish oneself as a marketable speaker, facilitator, or presenter. To make it even more complex, there's also quite a few differences between being a good musician or a good presenter, and knowing how to market oneself.

But we do what we can. Sometimes you know someone's taking advantage of you but you keep quiet and keep going because it nonetheless doesn't mean you still can't get something positive from the situation. Sometimes you have to push those who find the idea of a fair symbiosis interesting, but have a tough time keeping a momentum going.

And once in a while you have someone selflessly supportive, and you have to make sure you live up to that goodwill. Since my return, on the top of this very, very short list is Brian Tan and all the others at KLPac.

I just wish that that list was somewhat longer, that we had a more inviting atmosphere somehow. We're looking our first real batch of people going into the field with formal training in the viola - myself from the States, Joycelyn in a year from Germany, Chin Ning a little after from Taiwan, and Jebat from Singapore. How many of them would aim for a primary role as an orchestral musician we have to wait and see, but I hope that that does not become the avenue of choice simply because the other choices aren't as stable or worse, unappreciated. I'm clearly biased, but I do hope that when the time comes, the success of music, the success of appreciating the diversity of musicians, and the success of keeping our best of them, will not lean so much on the goodwill of a few, but will really be the spirit of the musical community, particularly the way I've seen done in the Phillippines and to an extent Singapore and Thailand. Because we have to get out of this now somewhat self-fulfilling prophecy that the highest level of Malaysian classical music scene - and ends - with the limits of the MPO. And realizing that if we really, really want to appreciate music, we start with the arena of possibilities. And the celebration of the spectrum as a whole.

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