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Archive for October 1st, 2019

Last week, I sent my 300th song to the U.S. Copyright Office.

Of course, a few of those hundreds of songs are repeats and reprises from my two classical albums, but if you add in the smattering of songs I’ve thrown away, it’s a wash, and 300 is a good official number. And of course, I have proof of this on my Bandcamp page, if anybody wants to fact-check me. Go! Count them! (The last 10 are going up within a week or two.)

I have a new milestone in a couple of months that also has a zero in it. That one I have less control over.

And that’s led me to a message for older people out there: I wrote more than two-thirds of this music in the last three years, a period of explosive growth for me as a songwriter, and during what people would call middle age. In my 20s, I wrote only a few dozen songs, and perhaps doubled that number in my 30s. But since 2016, at which time I was well into my 40s, I’ve made 14 albums, writing music everywhere–on the train, on the plane, on the treadmill, on the couch. I even tried to stop for months at a time while I worked on fiction, but it got to where I was writing songs unconsciously just walking around the store.

You might sniff and say it’s just the robot software doing it all. I have been, after all, writing stuff in GarangeBand–on my phone–and a lot of my work involves tape loops and buttons. But that’s the wrong conclusion. My guitar playing, both in speed and nuance, got three times better in 2016. And I suddenly started playing piano with no training in 2018. The iPhone is helping me, but it’s not writing the music or arranging it.

How have I become so prolific later in life? I don’t know. I have no idea why it all suddenly came to me. It’s been said and demonstrated to me over and over that we’re all supposed to lose inspiration and start sucking at art, and especially uptempo music, when we get older. We lose our muse. We get complacent. We resist the new ideas; our minds are less malleable, less playful, less able to assimilate new truths and discoveries and all else that makes you a great artist. That’s the conventional wisdom.

It’s also a crock of shit. Your ability to discover new talent within yourself has no age limit. Your style has no age limit. The idea of your imminent deterioration as you age is largely a mental and social construct–not unlike the fabrication that high school was the best times of our lives. Both ideas, we ought to suspect, have more to do with other people’s pitch to sell us stuff, and less to do with essential truths.

So this is something new I hope I could offer, besides my music itself: I can tell you unequivocally that I found an ocean of inspiration in my 40s, that these have easily been my peak years as an artist, peaks I hope will be eclipsed in my 50s.

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Pride

The two girls flashed the commuter train on Raritan Bay
Breasts slid out like cracked eggs
The bay was full of egrets. Some caught fish
The train was shad silver and the windows full of staring eyes
Rolling up and down the Amboys.
“Hey, look at them!” thought everybody.
All around the bay, everybody proud of what they stole.

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