Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A-minor is Boring

So I have this habit of saying whatever I'm thinking without really thinking about it. In a positive light, one might view this as a side-effect of being so completely focused on the it of a conversation that there's not a lot left for decorum and protocol. In a more negative light it would appear that I'm completely insensitive to the feelings of others.

From a practical perspective, saying what I thing has become a great filtering mechanism, for friends that is. It's kind of like our driveway; anyone who comes to our house really wants to be there.

My filter tends to have a polarizing effect. There are people who really appreciate getting a straight answer no matter what and there are people who really don't, especially when it's delivered with enthusiasm and delight.

Sometimes they're the same person.

For example, Iris has come to see that my verbalizations regarding her singing or her writing or her drumming or her mood are never personal, they're just matter-of-fact observations from someone trying to be helpful. However, there are moments when she just doesn't want to hear them.

For a long time, it would take me a while to recognize the signs that she wasn't open to "feedback" at the moment. Over time I got really good at recognizing them; Iris would say, "Look, I don't want any feedback on my drumming right now", and by the fourth or fifth time, I'd stop. We've now got it down to this look she gives me. It's one her mom uses to melt ferrous metals.

Sometimes I'll say something and only later think, "Hmmm... I wonder how he took that?"

I used to get kind of hung up in moments like that, over-thinking, second-guessing and then trying to explain. Since that never worked, I stopped.

I've also tried not saying what I'm thinking, but that only leads to multiple simultaneous conversations; there are the conversational threads I maintain in my head (the ones that follow what was unsaid) and the audible one. That doesn't work either.

So, I say what I'm thinking.

By the way, this is different than saying what I'm feeling, or more accurately, saying something that appears to be matter-of-fact, but is really just a byproduct of emotion. For example, there's a big difference between, "In the last song, you sped up significantly whenever you played a drum fill" and "For a drummer, your sense of time really sucks." The latter would not qualify as saying what you're thinking.

Phew... glad that's out of the way.

The other day at rehearsal, Scott said, "Wow, I was really getting tired of playing in A-minor. After a while it gets so boring."

My first thought (read verbalization) was, "How can a key get boring? There are limitless possibilities even if you never change keys. A key can never be boring. It's the musicians who run out of new ideas that are boring."

And then I thought about it. "Hmmm... I wonder how Scott took that?"

And then I thought, "But that would be what I would want to hear if I said something so naive."

And then I thought, "Hey, Scott's one of those people who makes it up the driveway even when his car won't."

So I continued, "It can be amazingly useful to play in a single key so long that you completely exhaust your repertoire of musical phrases and ideas. After a while, you start to tap into something deeper and better, but you first have to clear the clutter of what you already know."

Scott just smiled and said, "Yeah, you're right."

Happy Wednesday,


  1. Hilarious, Tef. And interesting.

    I actually have the opposite problem. I tend to over-filter what I want to say - so much that I most often end up saying nothing. So while I'm rarely accused of being insensitive or inappropriate, and people feel comfortable sharing their innermost feelings with me, I also see more than my fair share of dumping/venting.

  2. I second guess till the cows come home, though usually not in the moment. On the drive home, in the shower, .... In the moment, I feel confident of my intentions and communication ability. After the fact I throw out the confidence... not helpful... I'll think about that more.


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