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Monday, February 20, 2012

The Alternative

Tonight I was subjected to the world's stuffiest and most ostentatious of social events: an evening with scenester musicians.  This is nothing new to me, but I haven't been subjected to such torture for several years.  Not only did this situation serve to reacquaint me with several valid reasons to drink, it also made me realize how valuable a society of writers is that can critique one another without suspicion.

You see, the vast majority of people that give musicians their money do so without having an ear for music.  They tend to purchase an image of an attitude that (most of the time) shouldn't actually exist in our culture.  As a result musicians find themselves preening their exquisitely understated beards and practicing their unique personas in full-length mirrors.  Every story they tell is either an outright lie or the swollen truth tailored to make them as incredibly interesting as possible.

Some do this better than others.  This evening I happened upon a fellow who's long beard and quiet movements suggested to the untrained eye that he must have been living as a hermit somewhere up in the Catskills for the last decade.  He spoke with a gruff, monotone whisper that made it necessary for those listening to him to crowd in real close in order to hear his story.  Clever.  He was talking about ice-fishing, and although he didn't claim outright to be any kind of professional he certainly never mentioned that it was his first time.  He spoke to those around him with kind of an off-hand, patronizing language designed to demonstrate his authority on the subject.

He'd been taken ice-fishing by a friend of his, but according to the story this friend had been neglecting the ice-fishing shack - as it was empty upon their arrival.  Our storyteller didn't realize that logic, bears, and the possibility of theft prevented fishermen from keeping anything in these shacks besides a hole in the ice.  Despite his wizened appearance this guy was in his late twenties, lived in a cheap apartment near Whyte Avenue and had been born and raised in Edmonton by some pretty well-off parents.

Due to the necessity to fabricate oneself in the music scene musicians have learned never to trust one another.  They are in constant competition for attention, and they know that if they can damage another musician's confidence or image they can brush past them, possibly.  Constructive criticism becomes an opportunity for personal gain.

I've been coming to these writers' meetings for a little over a month.  I didn't fully realize it until I was reminded of the alternative, but an environment in which creative people can lend each other such tangible support without the hinderance of fear and greed is an improbably precious thing.

I'm grateful to be included, and I look forward to the opportunity to contribute to all of you.

3 comments:

  1. Wow. It sounds like the evening was quite the adventure. I'm sorry to hear you didn't get the support/education you were looking for but I'm glad the EWG can provide a place for you!

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  2. It sounds like you've pierced the silver lining that the rest of the scenesters don't really notice, and come out wiser. I'm sorry that it was a disappointment for you, but like Natasha I'm glad the EWG offers something with which you click.

    I've told the story a few times to the EWG members, about another writing group I tried out for a little while. It was run by two well-respected editors and basically everyone there tried to mimic their criticism or suck up to them in some form or another. Since the two editors were fairly jaded and/or impatient with beginning writers, a crit session can degenerate quickly into a competition to see who can make the wittiest joke about someone else's story. There's criticism, and then there's cruelty, and that's crossed well into the latter region.

    I have to echo your words with how precious the EWG is. I always come home happy and satisfied regardless of whether I submitted something for review, and the way the group rolls is just... sweet.

    Which is why I think it'd be awesome to try and organize some sort of EWG writer-retreat, even if it's just a day or so.

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  3. Ooh! That'd be fun, Hal. :)

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