‘...what’s left when...’ : A Promise To Fail Fearlessly
Nearly three years ago I began a project that would become the definitive catalyst in my search for a voice as a composer, artist, and even human. I know; that sounds like hyperbole, but it really was one leap of faith that emboldened me to brave many others by embracing a paradigm that holds failure and vulnerability as values – ones that have guided just about every decision I have made since.
The benefit of this change may seem dubious at first; isn’t the goal to try to keep it together and then succeed? I certainly thought it was. In fact, I still do now. What has changed is the level on which I do so.
Let me explain. Before, I questioned success at every step, every attempt. Consequently, failure was defined as a lack of success at any one of these steps. In many ways, this type of thinking is useful: calibrating on this level is what allows us to favorably navigate the typical day. But what about getting beyond the basic? What about exploring (the world, oneself, one’s limits)?
In many ways, the temptation to constantly query is twofold here; after all, isn’t control the first thing we scramble for outside our comfort zone? Somewhat ironically, I believe it is actually this quest for success via control that should be cast in doubt – what if it is failure that leads to success? What if a loss of control is a normal and necessary part of the process? How else can one grow?
With these questions in mind, concerns of failure and success don’t go away, they simply go up. Success becomes learning to lean into the discomfort and navigating setbacks in the short term in order to grow in the long run. Failure becomes an avoidance of risk for fear of a setback; failure is a failure to grow, not a failure to succeed.
What does this all have to do with me, my music, and that project? Well, that project forced me to fail. That failure forced me to grow and learn until I could write the music I needed to. That music, in turn, allowed me to trust (myself, my process, my collaborators) enough to embrace vulnerability and the implicit openness that comes with it: vulnerability is not about me, it is about us and the world we share.
With that in mind, today I share three things that have been the center of my world for the past two years in hopes that they can become a small part of yours:
First, the official video for a solo trumpet piece called ...what’s left when..., for solo trumpet, performed by the incomparable Imogen Hancock. This is one of the Connect . The . Dots pieces and the one whose central theme, failure, ran through from the beginning of the composition to the completion of this video. It was created in collaboration with filmmaker, Sky Ainsbury (full credits in the video) and is the first of a four-part series.
Second, is the website where you’re reading this. Built by Jessica Johnson (who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org) and myself, it is my new online home. Please explore and let me know what you think. (If you’d like to start at the beginning, click here.)
Finally, I have just launched a Patreon page. I’ll skip the details here (they are fully fleshed out in the link) but basically, I’m embracing vulnerability and asking for help (again).