I popped by a music event by Sofar one evening in November. It’s been awhile since I’ve attended any live performances locally; the last was probably at Wala or something near home. More for company than for music.
Sofar is the shortened and abbreviated name for Sounds From a Room. It happens almost monthly, on a Saturday evening, usually in a cosy space. What changes is the location of which participants will only hear one day prior to the gig. The evening starts and ends casually. 3 artistes or groups play for an audience of about 50. Is it open to public? Yes and no. To keep the group small, the final list of attendees are whittled down from the names of all registered folks put through a ballot system. All down to luck.
I am not a music person so I can only say, it all sounded good and felt good. AYE. I left feeling like it was a very good night.
I remember being in the lift of my apartment block. Almost home, I was going through an email newsletter from On Being. Kristin Lin, the editor of On Being studios was talking about that proverbial water she has always being in. For her, it was about chasing perfection.
This reference to water happens every now and then. I first noticed it in a talk by David Foster Wallace – I’ve lifted a quote from that talk below.
There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”
Once you have chanced upon it and read it once, the next time someone talks about water, you would have sorta understood without the person having to elaborate much what he or she is referring to. Gives you some idea of how sticky the message is, and really, it’s also about the personality behind it; DFW has quite a following. Think of it as some kind of a knowing look between a growing group of people.
I would use water – the same metaphor – to share more about what I came to realize once again that evening during the performance.
I realized how wholeheartedness is a quality that shows up quite clearly. The all-in. One lady told us her story – that she wrote this particular song after bawling her eyes out in Ireland after a heartbreak. She was waiting for the next bus to come along. She did a Kanye apparently; wanting to pursue music, she packed her bags and left everything – left her parents, and went to Europe. I was just thinking then – what an experience it would be, if I would be able to do that. I was reminded, there and then, as I hear her sing, that many creations are born out of excess. Emotional excess. She shared about how everytime when in front of the piano, she writes her music when she’s sad. Sometimes, I feel the same about my own writing too – I used to feel ashamed and wanted to hide. I have felt self-conscious of my own patterns, writing only when feeling a certain way. Do I come across as too sad? Too PC? Too…bipolar? But anyway. I imagine myself, as i watch her sing, travelling through Europe alone, meeting myself in different places, the writings, creations, born out of being situated elsewhere.
I also noticed something. About the small. In that all-out, suddenly the small numbers don’t quite matter. Maybe it does, I guess I don’t really know. But I feel led to believe, that a preoccupation about numbers and scale (we want as many eyeballs and warm bodies packed together as possible, time efficiently used, bang for the friggin buck) comes about only when someone is projecting from a distance. Not physical distance. Psychological and emotional distance.
As the night went on, I appreciated the art form. I wasn’t really hearing it. or maybe I was, just superficially. I didnt feel like i was in a good position or a good place to evaluate anything about the music, except that it was enjoyable as light listening. I was more preoccupied with looking at how the musicians were enjoying themselves. And how as an art form, making music involves putting one’s all. Whereas as a form of creation, writing somehow feels more tentative. More withheld. more calculated. less generous. It involves alot of negotiation. concealment and openness and the balance could tip anytime because the process of pouring out is slower than the flickers of the mind.
I learnt there and then, about my own water.
Almost always infused with elements of withholding & restraint. I don’t think i’ve ever “forged ahead wholeheartedly”. ‘Tentative’ is the word.
It’s tempting to say, now is the point where all of these changes (for the better). It is a resolve. But we shall see hohoho