GRANDMA: You’re sister’s still seeing that boy, right? How about you?
[Translation: You still don’t have a boyfriend?]
ME: Uh, I’m not really seeing anyone…
[BRAIN: I mean, being a feminist and a workaholic tends to filter out a large fraction of the population I could theoretically procreate with.]
GRANDMA: Don’t worry about the rest of them, don’t worry about what your parents or sister say. Keep doing what you need to do to be successful.
[Translation: Keep doing you.]
ME: Thanks, Grandma.
[BRAIN: Translation Grandma, you speak paraphrased words of wisdom. I dig it. Though technically speaking, it would be nice to do someone else.
…But yeah, okay. I’ll keep doing me.]
“Anxiety may be compared with dizziness. He whose eye happens to look down the yawning abyss becomes dizzy. But what is the reason for this? It is just as much in his own eye as in the abyss, for suppose he had not looked down. Hence, anxiety is the dizziness of freedom…”
- Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, “The Concept of Anxiety”
I was bathed in a strange, intoxicating cocktail of emotions. Vacillating between excitement and dread, I wasn’t sleeping well (somewhat typical for me before a big performance). When I saw my friends, I asked them, “What if a critic tears my career apart before it, like, ACTUALLY begins?” Whatever their comforting answers were, I was too worried to absorb them. It’s unexpectedly paralyzing to see the things you’ve dreamed of – a solo performance alongside the Bang on a Can All-Stars, a The New York Times review by Zachary Woolfe - get unstoppably closer and closer.
I did what I could to feel more centered. I took an Alexander Technique lesson. I practiced (duh), though I couldn’t stop ruminating on a shift or phrase when I was physically away from my violin. I sometimes played Stitch – what a former classmate dubbed my “birthdaycaster,” the gorgeous baby blue electric guitar I’d been sleeping next to every night since I picked it up on the 18th. (It was a real exercise in self-control to stop playing before my fingertips became sore.) When I could give myself a longer break - a factor of free time and Kleenex availability - I’d watch Lilo & Stitch. (I mean, I do love Truffaut and the Nouvelle Vague and all, but that movie makes me weep. Kinda like how Mozart will always feel like home but Panic! At The Disco makes my body convulse in an approximation of dance moves.)
All this helped, nominally. I still felt like I was on a train shuttling too rapidly towards a mountain I’d been preparing to climb for years, deliberately seated facing the opposite direction.
Looking backwards as I hurtled forwards, I started to recall memories and conflicting feelings towards professional success. I vividly remembered sitting at the very back - [3/7] »
Obligatory plug: For a marathon mix tape (available until this Monday, actually), email email@example.com.
Meredith Monk favorited a tweet of mine. I nearly shit my pants.
In the surreal days approaching The Big Day, simultaneously rehearsing with ensemble mise-en for their own marathon was a mental anchor for me. (For those outside of music, it probably sounds like a bad idea to book different and demanding performances in proximity to each other; for young musicians, it’s par for the course. I played thirteen unique performances - mostly solo, all different repertoire - in the five weeks before the Marathon, booking four the week of and a last one the week after. Slightly masochistic? Yes, but fully intentional: a serial over-thinker, I keep busy to prevent my mind from digesting itself.
Also, moving le cash-money is a pretty high priority for a recently graduated twenty-something. New York’s damn expensive. So is a quality amp. On that note, if somebody is a) selling his/her Fender Princeton and b) is sympathetic to a verbose violinist, PLEASE holler at me.)
Anyway, during rehearsal, I received an email from Bang on a Can. (Sidebar: I do my best to keep it professional. My phone’s on my stand to track time, in the event that we run over - it’s rare, but if time starts slipping away, you do want to be aware of it.) The strings were resting while the brass were rehearsing; who could resist any message with “Press” in the subject?
I swiped, tapped, and internally gasped. It was a veritable who’s who list of the new music world, including international press, popular bloggers, and The New York Times. The New York Times? - The New York Times?! -
Silence in the room. Heat spilled like hot liquid across my cheeks; it felt like everyone was looking at me.
“What’s wrong?” Moon asked. (If I wasn’t shitting my pants before, I was TRULY shitting them now.) Did I actually just say that out loud? Dear Lord, Adrianna, you’re continually an embarassment. Is it that hard to keep yourself together?
A small, nervous smile. “…No-thing,” I said, slowly and weakly. I took a horrified glance at Sabina, Moon, and around the room. Shutting my mouth, I stared dead ahead at the music on my stand.
I was bathed in a strange, intoxicating (2/7) »
Photo: Backstage with Meredith Monk and Theo Bleckmann. Turns out she’s far less less intimidating in person than she is inside my head. I will note, though, that she’s more gracious than I ever could have imagined.
For a marathon mix tape including her, me, and the other artists from the Marathon (available until this Sunday), email firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Obligatory plug: for a marathon mixtape (available until this Sunday), email email@example.com.