The halfway point of any journey is a reckoning. Looking back you see clearly how much effort was expelled to get you where you are, which makes you acutely aware of what it will take to finish. The worker returning from a lunch break braces himself for the next four hours of the shift. The hiker remembers all the hill climbs, gazing toward the horizon. The bleary-eyed driver takes a monumental risk calling on a ‘second wind’.
On the eve of reaching the midpoint of my podcast journey (that is, my year of making a song for every other weekday, releasing them via podcast), I awoke with a fly of a thought buzzing around in my head. Shoo fly, I said.
This fly was the spector of a comment left as a customer review of the P Bear Podcast. It was filed around April 23rd ( I know because I decided to respond to it in song, with April 25th’s “Get Happy Now”). This ‘customer’, Drunkninja, warns would-be listeners, “There’s a reason bands don’t write three new songs per week…the tunes are interesting for about 30 seconds or so and then become boring and simple. He’s using a nice sample library and paints a nice picture but lacks any understanding of chord progressions and the role they play in taking the listener on a journey.” Rating: lowest possible, one star.
It’s strange how criticism can buzz around in your brain. I guess I’m considering this now because I’m very aware of both my understanding of music (my technical aptitudes and limitations played out in over 75 songs so far this year) and my personal journey, and I’m puzzled by what would motivate someone to go to the trouble of suggesting that P Bear alone (there are no other customer reviews attributed to Drunkninja) is boring and foolishly ambitious, and should probably just stop.
What gets my goat is that this is the obvious gambit: That making a song every other weekday and expecting people might find it worthy of their listening time is so obviously foolhardy. I mean, who has that kind of time? Life is hectic. There are all kinds of pitfalls to any journey which is in any way novel and / or challenging.
Like, when I think about running marathon, it seems like a good idea, but hard, and maybe even boring. I mean, it would require a lot of time to train my body to do that. It’s slightly interesting, not a meritless concept anyway, but not for me. I’d rather walk here and there. So when I put myself in Drunkninja’s shoes in this analogy, for example, and I see someone training for a marathon, what would motivate me to actually leave notice for them like, “There’s a reason most people don’t run marathons. What you’re doing may be a fine idea but your execution is boring and by the way, you lack any real understanding of foot progressions and the role this plays in walking. You should just stop. You are one star in my book. Zero, actually, but my computer won’t let me put zero.”
I don’t know what the moral of this story is exactly. Different things make different people tick. I’m aware that my musical journey would have the natural tendency to drift in to watered-down, boring, samey territory. I even make a special effort to produce work that may surprise the listener who would expect this tendency. I’m not an academic. I don’t feel like I need to know the finer points of music theory to make songs or post them freely on the internet. I don’t think what I’m doing is an affront to the notion of the way bands do things.
What I do know is these songs are to me, both satisfying to create and listen to. And I intend to finish the journey I embarked on January 1, 2007!