When I figured out I was trans in the spring of 2019, the next day I had a new thought. "I love myself." I recoiled as if struck, and went on a three week bender. I emerged with a bruised ego and a clear sense of what was going on in my life. My last drink was July 29th, 2019. The week I got sober, I started writing Morning Pages again as if my life depended on it, and it really did. I didn't always do them in the morning, but I don't think I missed a day for months.
Since that time I've been slowly learning that the most important part of my life will never be the spectacular plans for monumental projects I imagine in the future, regardless of how effective I may ever be at rushing to build the foundations to support their fragile facades. It's the daily practice of a creative life that slowly builds into something much more monumental than I will ever be able to imagine ahead of time.
I grew up as a musician, playing alto and tenor saxophone. I was accepted to the Berkeley School of Music in Boston. I decided not to attend, and moved to NYC to go to NYU instead to study some weird mix of math, philosophy, art, electronics, and theory that I ended up calling Computational Aesthetics at The Gallatin School of Individualized Study. Incredible resulting education aside, I've come to realize all I ever wanted to do was make music. But at the time, I knew I wasn't a prodigy. I was a fairly technically skilled player, but I didn't feel like I had soul. Maybe it was being a repressed trans girl; I've come to see my past identity as a bit of a paper mâché ball (more about that here. But the truth is that I was scared, and maybe more importantly, I had no model for what a creative life looked like. All of the musicians I knew, regardless of how talented they were, taught music lessons, struggled to feed themselves, and played jazz at the local restaurants in town a few nights a week. Ultimately, jazz also just wasn't my thing.
In college and for the following 10 years, I attempted to make music by proxy. I dreamed of making art about music. Music visualizations. Immersive installations. Giant art parties with three stages of music. I wanted to produce my own music and then make experiences around it, but I couldn't admit the first part, so I settled for the experiences, and something always felt missing.
Around the time I came out as trans, I bought my first analog modular synthesizer, a Make Noise 0-Coast. I knew I'd love it, and love it I do still. It was the start of a deep and expensive rabbit hole of Gear Acquisition Syndrome, also known as GAS. Thank you COVID relief checks, my digestions is feeling stimulated, indeed. One of my closest friends gave me an excellent suggestion in response to my near immediate questions of recording and playing live - how about I give myself a year with absolutely no recording, to just play for myself. I did. It was the best gift I've ever given myself.
In the start of the COVID lockdowns I found myself stuck back in New Orleans, almost a year after moving back to NYC. I had my synth shipped down to me. When I got it, I fell in love, again, and again, and again. I just played. And I started recording. Not because I felt I should, but because I wanted to hear it again and to share. Modular synthesis is an incredibly fleeting process. Every time I sit down, I pull every single patch cable that constructed the unique instruments from last session. I turn knobs randomly, and then I start again. It's completely impossible to recreate a patch once it's gone. There are literally hundreds of jacks on my synthesizer, each that can be connected to others to create a unique instruments, the kind that you might find preconfigured and sold at retail in some cases, but more likely the kind that only I would find interesting. Modular synthesis feels more like sculpture than anything else. Of slowly exploring a particular sonic space, finding axes of movement that excite me, shaping their edges, defining the physics of their motion. Creating an interconnected network of relationships, setting them spinning, and then getting the fuck in there and ready to dance!
I love my musical process, and since the spring, I've recorded a lot. I never take more than a few hours to work on a track. And every session doesn't lead to a recording. All of the recordings are live. I never go back and edit anything later. I don't use Ableton or any software on a computer at all. I usually just record the thing straight out of the mixer into an audio interface attached to my phone and then upload to my SoundCloud.
I started a website, chipolish.com (there's a whole dream behind the name, ask me sometime). I may hate the tech industry and have vowed never to work in it again, but having spent 10 years working as a professional web developer, including as CTO of my own venture funded startup, does have some perks about ease of access to web free development, although I do find often free labor (especially my own) to be incredibly irascible and flighty to work with. My intention was to use it as a centralized publishing platform for my music, and to start writing publicly as well. I had continued my morning pages every day, but I knew I was living in a bubble. I felt ready to expand.
Perfectly on cue in the universes' mysterious designs, enter Seth Godin via Debbie Millman's (my favorite new professional badass gay girl crush) Design Matters Podcast interview about the Practice. Seth said all the Sethy things about shipping the work that I'd been thinking. Rather than sulk like I would have a few years ago about how I should have been able to say all of that myself and go my grumbly way. I looked him up, I read the book. I agreed. I started publishing to my website daily.
Then life happened. A friend visited, the holidays, my partner was sick, I was sick, white supremacists tried to take over the country, you know, all the usual casual happenings of modern American life. And then the Creatives Workshop
Tomorrow, January 19th, 2021, I turn 30 years old. I can't imagine a better birthday present to myself to launch the next decade of my life, my first decade as a sober, trans artist, as Scarlet Dame, then the gift of a daily practice. I already have a daily practice, but my goal for this workshop, for my life, is to develop a generous practice of sharing with a community. Of reaching outward. Of being honest, open, and vulnerable with the people that are willing to listen. To invite them in.