By "feedback", I really mean "interaction". For instance, I love questions. Whether we're in Sunday school or shooting bows or doing falconry or playing guitar, if someone says "Hey, what do you think about ______?" or "Hey, how do you do _______?" (it's a little known fact that my first name is really "Hey"), well, that's a rush. At the same time, I equally love it when someone feeds me, especially in an interactive way. In other words, I don't really like going to conferences and listening to speakers and not interacting with them. I want to sit down across a table with a cup of coffee and interact. I want them to ask questions of me and me to ask questions of them. There are fewer things I'd rather do, really, than give and take.
Good music is like this and that's why I like playing good music. I've been in jams with two or three good players who listen to each other and we've traded breaks back and forth for hours, sometimes playing the same tune for 10-15-20 minutes. I remember one jam in particular with two young hotshots from South Plains College where we did exactly this. I played something, one of them built upon that, the next kid took it somewhere else, it came back to me and I modified it, and around and around and around we went. The incredible Anne Luna (I call her "The World's Best Bass Player" for good reason) was playing bass for us and had to leave momentarily to go pop a blister on her finger; that's how intense that jam was. And that, folks, is an extremely satisfying thing. It's also fairly rare but once you've experienced it, you'll seek it out for the rush.
Then there's musical situations where no one listens and there's no feedback. I can remember several gigs like that but one in particular stands out- we were playing at an arts fair in Boise ID. There was a large lawn space in front of the stage and people would go out of their way to walk around that space. No one stopped to listen to our little band (and I don't think we were THAT bad!). Worse, no one in the band was listening to each other. It came time for me to take a solo and I stepped up to the mike and continued to play rhythm. No one raised their eyebrows or winked or did anything other than continue to stare at their own instruments. Now, I suppose one could say "Well, you should be playing for yourself!" and you'd have a point, but I don't have to lug my guitar to the car, drive an hour, unload, and stand in the hot summer sun to play for myself. I go out so that I can reap what I sow. And when I expect to reap and it doesn't happen, it's extremely unsatisfying. I can't play "background music" for this reason. If one, just one, person listens and I can have a "conversation" with that one person, I'm happy, but to sit and play without that interaction... ugh. Unsatisfying. Downright depressing, really- no one cares! Well, not really, but that's what it feels like.
I enter guitar and mandolin contests largely for the feedback. There you are in front of a panel of "blind" judges. They can't see you, don't know who you are, and you're there just to play and see how you stack up. This feedback either encourages me to continue- if I do well- or it spurs me to work harder- if I do well, but not quite well enough to win. It rarely totally discourages me because I hate to quit, especially when I've set a goal for myself. I do music videos and put them on my YouTube channel for this same reason- I want feedback. I got this comment the other day and it just made my day:
Bryan, your demos remind me of the great Jimmy Connors,who back in the mid 1970's demonstrated that he could crush the daylights out of a tennis ball,just using a cut off broom!You could basically make any guitar sound fabulous and I doubt anyone will disagree.
As a guy with hearing aids in each ear who's been deaf since age 6, this is very satisfying feedback. It says "you're doing something right".
You might consider this "ego building" but I disagree because it's equally satisfying if someone feeds me. Like I said earlier, I love it when someone say "Have you considered _____?" and then proceeds to feed an already existing interest. New interests are harder for me to accommodate because my Interest Jar is already pretty full and bringing in something new means something old's gotta go, but when someone brings something to the table that expands an existing interest, that is very satisfying. In fact, if I don't get fed, I'm going to go seek A Feeder. This is really why I take lessons, and it's why one on one lessons are better than a book- interaction. I need both Feeders and I need to Feed. When one's missing, I'm not satisfied.
Now, the creativity part. I create things- whether they be musical or written (like, um...this blog) because I want interaction. I want to enrich someone's life with something that I've created but I also want to know that I've enriched their life- feedback! To know that I've enriched someone is a very satisfying thing. To be unable to do this is unsatisfying.
The first year after David's death, I had zero creativity. I played almost no guitar- my primary instrument, where I expect myself to create- but focused on mandolin. There, I played Celtic tunes by rote with no variation, no improvisation, and no creativity. No creativity meant that I had nothing to offer. Nothing to offer means no feedback. No feedback means no satisfaction. No satisfaction means depression. Depression means no desire for creativity. It's a vicious cycle. The one thing that would draw me out of that cycle was someone asking a question. When someone asks for something, it means that they want help and helping people is satisfying. Satisfaction drives depression away. Temporarily, at least. I noticed that, for the first time in my life, the euphoria of satisfaction would be followed by a depression, the only way out of which was to wait for another question. That first year was tough. There were times when I'd be in the shop, the darkness would hit, and I would have to crawl under my workbench, curl up, and suck my thumb for awhile before I got a grip on it and starting looking at the sunny side again.
Two years after David, I wasn't crawling under the workbench as much and I started playing guitar again, but there was nothing there. No creativity, just kind of making my fingers move again over stuff that I knew. I went to Kaufman Kamp as a mandolin Kamper, but I placed myself in "Intermediate" instead of "Advanced" because I couldn't think yet and I didn't want to be challenged. I just wanted to get moving again. I did very little jamming- mostly listening- but it was that year that I found "The David Mandolin" and that was satisfying. At Winfield that year, I also did very little jamming, but I started getting my ears back and more importantly, my desire to create via music.
Now, three years after David's death, I feel like I'm gaining my creativity back but only in the past few months. The friend I mentioned at the start of this long post visited us, provided a lot of stimulating discussion about mutual interests, which, in turn, stimulated me to play a lot of guitar and mandolin during which I announced to whoever was listening "I feel like I can play again" by which I really meant "I feel creative again!". After the friend left, I told Georgia "I got fed this week." That was a satisfying week, followed, of course, by a depressive crash, but not as bad as previous depressions, (helped quite a bit by us leaving to attend a family reunion which was also pretty "satisfying", all in all). I held on to the good, focused ahead, and kept the creative rush going. Furthermore, this "feeding" helped me realize how important it is that I, too, get "fed". Between pastoring (Sunday morning, Sunday sermon, Weds eve), Internet guitar forums, guitar customers, and etc, I do so much feeding that it drains me. Normally, I can recharge, but when a bad event happens- in the past 4 years, I've dealt with a lawsuit, severe drought, David's death, and Georgia's cancer- I don't recharge and it just wipes me out. I need to find people to feed me.
Well, this has been a long post with not very many pictures. It's been said to me that I tend to write posts about stuff that happens and not touchy-feely stuff, so here's a touchy-feely post for you. I've been thinking about this topic a lot lately- thinking about the creative urge, wondering how to fight the post-euphoric crash and maintain a more even keel, and well, here we are. Your comments and questions are welcomed! :)
Here's an obligatory picture.
Martin D-28 1937 Authentic
Krishot F5 mandolin
Martin D-18 Golden Era
And here's a couple of applicable Bible verses which it would do me well to remember:
Php 4:8 NKJV Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
1Th 5:21 NKJV Test all things; hold fast what is good.