I just spent a half-hour watching this video recommended to me by a stranger elsewhere online. I knew. and still know nothing, about the man who talks here, despite a documentary being made about him a few years back.
Why did it hold my attention, even though it’s partly about that documentary and a career I don’t know? Well, he’s an engaging talker, and the interviewer here too is excellent, but that wouldn’t be determinative. One of this project’s mottos is “Other People’s Stories,” but obviously in a world of current billions and more than a millennium of poetry to consider, I’m going to ignore or pass by most people’s stories. Maybe it’s his age and his obvious engagement with art, while being old enough to be my father? I’m old. I’m still engaged in this Project. Old people still facing that situation may be the link that connected me.
As someone who currently rarely performs live in a room of listeners, the subject of “stage fright” isn’t a pressing issue for me. The early parts of this interview do speak to that issue, reminding us that it is not a unique, shameful, issue — but one that is rather common among performers. No, it’s not so much stage fright that I myself am most interested in. Rather, I’ve been increasingly promotional with the more than 650 audio pieces and accompanying posts that have accumulated here over the past six years. I frankly feel a mix of unseemly self-interest and objective self-delusion as I do that. These acts of promotion are still novel enough for me that I can, for now, press on past those feelings. And since it’s been harder to create more pieces, or as complete a realization in them of what this Project tries to do, this task — which embarrasses me — allows me to think I’d doing something in place of that.
What I find is the deeper message then of this man’s account is that there is an element in art — subject, yes, to the clouding of our egos and neurotic urges — that is beyond ourselves. More than 20 minutes in, in what becomes the conclusion of the interview’s story arc — the thing everything before has been building to — Seymour Bernstein articulates that place.*
Can we visit that place consciously, acknowledge that we want to abide there at least a little while?
For an audio piece, here’s one of the early pieces of this project I’m most proud of, another older man of music speaking about that art. Weston Noble, spoke this about music at his retirement, and I wove his words into some original music. You can hear it with the player gadget below, or with this highlighted link.
*So, should I give it to you in pull quote form, a TL:DNR assistance to the harried reader who doesn’t have time for the half-hour interview? I debated this, but decided that no, it would lack impact without the build of the story telling itself by the method of it’s telling. I decided, you might be too likely to shrug, and the precept would roll off your consciousness. And earlier in the interview Bernstein makes another recommendation that may be valuable to writers and composers: that a balance of re-creation and creation is helpful.