During the incredibly strange year of 2020, many people found in a hobby a most-needed moment of relief and relaxation. Homemade bread, painting, gardening, each one sought refuge in the comfort zone provided by any activity that gave the feeling of having some practical use. I chose a course on time planning, more specifically an online course on how to put together the perfect weekly schedule.

The nice young lady who presented the pre-recorded lessons made the tedious process of putting together a weekly schedule of appointments seem like a delightful experience. This is often the problem with online courses: they make everything look easy and there is no point in answering a loud “No!” when, at the end of the lesson, the instructor asks: “everything alright?”, because they will not listen.

If it worked? Yes and no. I managed to get to the fifth version, if I’m not mistaken (the idea was that each week everyone would check what had worked or not in the planning and what could be improved for the following week), but I could not stick to my planning.

Do not blame the planning. It was good one. It even left somne room for the unforeseen. In fact, there are no culprits, just life itself. There are times in our lives so crazy, that not even the best of weekly plans will be able to organize.

The end of the year is usually one of those times. By the way, a good indication that the year is coming to an end is that the stress level goes through the roof and if you do no’t want to join the year-end stress crowd, perhaps the best thing to do is to admit that your schedule will suffer repeated upheavals, including strokes of luck.

Last week, for example, I managed to get an appointment for a very busy doctor simply because I called after patients who canceled. A true stroke of luck that not even the most perfectly conceived agenda could have foreseen, but which nevertheless changes the planning of the day. But what if the surprise is not such a pleasant one?

Accepting that it will not always be possible to stick with the plan and realizing that, sometimes, it will not be possible to recalculate the route, and that you may end up losing control and even hit head-on with what you wanted, can be an important tool for maintaining your mental health, strange at it seems. And staying mentally healthy is the best gift you can give yourself, this or any other time of the year.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Among the many wonderful quotes by Oscar Wilde, the one that says “There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it” remains a firm favorite of mine. Perhaps because it works so well in so many different situations in life. Take, for example, myself.

After a very short and quite well-deserved period of celebration (meaning two beers) for getting two projects approved in the municipal culture incentive law, I had to sink my feet into the harsh reality that it is necessary to seek supporters. Could this situation be any wilde-a-nesque?

It should not be difficult to convince people to redirect part of their taxes to pre-approved cultural projects, and yet it is. Very difficult. There is a certain generalized climate of distrust and my desire after leaving the meetings is one of deep fatigue. I am already happy, when I can actually talk to the person in charge. Why? Because I have already faced, on the same day, two “the person in charge is traveling”.

Yes, I know that this is part of the craft, it comes with the teritory etc. I also know that even professionals with a long road behind them need to wear, at times, the hat of entrepreneurs and speak the language of business. I was aware of all this when I sent my projects for approval, but even so, the feeling is that I am carrying out the task of several people and the worst thing about this situation is that I cannot even complain about the other team members!

Being a project leader means taking responsbility for things. Yes, I would also like to have someone else making the boring decisions, so that I could focus solely on things strictly related to music, but the truth is that if I do not play the role of a business woman now, I will not be able to make music possible in the future.

You have to play the full game, despite the fatigue. Not forever, but at least for today. Or, as we say in Brazil: if you do not know how to play, do not go to the playground.

Perhaps the half-mocking, half-tragic words by Wilde remain timeless because human beings are permanently dissatisfied beings, who keep seeking what they do not have and then want something else, even more complicated to achieve than the one they previously wanted.

Yes, my friend, in many ways, we are very irritating little creatures and we do not have the vaguest notion of our limits. Flying without wings, swimming without gills: we have always done things we were not meant to do. Or were we?

Be seeing you!

G.F.

For the last two weeks I have been neck-deep in a task, fighting against the deadline which, by the way, had already been extended. I was working on a videopoem of approximately 18 minutes, a collage of excerpts from songs and poems, with images in the background. Put that way, it does not seem like a job that will need the full attention of the team. The problem is that my team consists of only one person: myself.

Depending on who you have by your side, working alone can prove to be a huge advantage, but the process is often quite tiring. And, of course, it gets worse if you get too caught up in the details, as I tend to be. It is a problem I have not only as a content producer, but also as a consumer: I pay too much attention to details.

Is the audio loud and clear enough or can you still her me breathing? Is the music coming in at the right time? Is the fade out too long? What if I remove the final 0.3 seconds of that video clip? Details that certainly an inattentive spectator would never notice, but that worry me and prevent the project to be considered concluded, until I reach the desired point.

I do not remember if it was a colleague or a professor from the my PhD days who said: you do not finish writing a a thesis you simply abandon it at some point. I think this comment also applies to the process of mixing an album (face it: you will never achieve the “ideal mix” you have in mind) or reading a book.

Am I suggesting you should quit your readings before reaching the end? No. I have already done that, and the feeling is terrible, I do not recommend it at all. On the other hand, I certainly do not recommend my reading methods either. They inlcude, for instance, deciding in the middle of page 157 to return to page 80, because I just remembered a delightful character quip, and I would like to enjoy it one more time. Yet again.

This is exactly my problem now. I am stuck on volume three of In Search of Lost Time by Proust precisely because the book is so good. And, of course, you could say that it is not about the time it takes you to read from cover to cover, but rather the pleasure of reading. Ok, agreed, but even this pleasure can be put to the test if you cannot set a pace for reading.

The problem with getting too caught up in the details is that eventually you will forget about the main plot. Focusing on details is great, and a neat execution is even better, but for every project there is a sweet spot to be reached. Your mission is to get there or, in some cases, as close as possible.

Trying to reinvent that sweet spot over and over is a huge waste of time. It will only prevent you from getting involved in other projects or, even worse, it will make you miss some deadlines. Remember: an imperfect project, however duly entered in a call, is infinitely better than a project kept in a file, lost in the memory of your computer.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

You probably know the story of Ugly Duckling , but just to be sure: Danish author Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875) first published it on November 11, 1843. The tale was part of the the first volume of “New Fairy Tales”, and it has been been adapted for various media, including opera, musical, and animated film.

In the plot, a baby duck suffers a lot of verbal and physical abuse because of his appearence. After a classic “hero’s journey”, during which he goes through a harsh winter hiding in a cave on the partially frozen lake, the ugly duckling, now grown, finally discovers that it was, in fact, a majestic swan.

The way I see it, Ugly Duckling and Superman have a lot in common. I talked about super heros here already, but today I would like to talk specifically about Superman, more specifically about the Kryptonite x Superman relationship. And his relationship to Ugly Duckling.

You see, in both cases the first source of destabilization came from the family. The parents of Superman and the solo mother in Ugly Duckling both tried, in some way, to protect them, but their efforts were not enough to free our characters from the terrible suffering caused by their origins, whether in the form of bullying or as a symbolic artifact. WActually, we could sumarize both plots in two words: family, caution.

Maybe the reason for the huge success of these characters is related to the fact that we feel represented, when we realize that families/environments of origin in general, and not only ours, can be the source of much of our joys and good memories, but they might also become the first element of oppression one must face.

I am particularly impressed by the number of people who claim to have their most fervent supporters among their family members. People who believed in and supported their ideas and encouraged their careers from the ground up. Very beautiful stories indeed, but they do not even remotely resemble mine. Some of us need to get things done without the extra support of family members.

Despite what the gossip magazines say, a significant part of us needs to go on even without standing ovations, without huge financial sums involved in our contracts. The truth is that a huge number of performers have a routine much closer to a factory worker than a fairy tale princess.

Perhaps people get confused by the way the life of many artists is represented on screen and in literature: they are either starving bodies carrying tormented souls, or millionaires followed by paparazzi day and night. The dichotomy confuses our family and closest friends, who think that if you are not rich or famous like that guy they showed on TV, so maybe this thing you do is just a hobby, and you should probably get yourself a real job.

Most of the time, this distorted view is not even expressed in words. Non-verbal signals include disapproving looks or small gestures (rolling eyes come to mind) that can be quite painful for those at whom they are directed.

If you are part of the happy 100%-family support bunch, you probably have no idea what I am talking about. For the rest of us is either Ugly Duckling or Superman.

I do not know how you handle your kryptonite, but I really wish you would not give up on your swan flight.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Life is a lot like jazz – it´s best when you improvise.’

— George Gershwin

Last week I was saved by the extension of a deadline for submitting a project that I really want to happen.
I never count on the possibility of extending the submission date, so I just kept on working as crazy until the last moment, and when it came to the very hard moment, when I had to decide between sending a version of my project that I was not pleased with, or simply losing the gig, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel in a social media post: “application deadline had been extended for another week”. Such beautiful words…

The effect on my body was quie peculiar. Suddenly, I felt as if my muscles had realized all the pressure they had subjected to. The endless hours in front of the computer, the less than ideal moving pattern, the lack of sunlight… My body became self-aware and decided to rebel. I felt extremely tired and, as much as I tried to keep working, it was pretty obvious that I needed some extra sleep. Who does not, right?

The funny thing about deadline extensions is that they do not generate a domino effect. A postponed deadline does not necessarily cause your next tasks to be shifted accordingly. Usually, the euphoria stage passes quickly. After discovering that, yes, you will have time to finish reviewing your project and calmly complete the form and submit the millions of requested attachments, in a very short time, you will likely find yourself again tangled up with other deadlines that will now collide.

It is all very complicated already as it is, but I insist on making the situation worse, by maintaining an unshakable belief in the fact that I am very smart. So very smart that I can get out of any tangle of tasks unscathed. I am not sure if this happens to everyone (hope so), but I tend to think that I am going to get rid of tasks much faster than I actually do. Either that, or I plan too much for one day. Both things, probably.

One should never forget that life is a lot like jazz. Even if you try your best to have everything organized, the probability that you will have to improvise at some point is, well, one hundred percent. And any jazz cat knows that to really improvise well, it takes a lot of time and a lot of practice. No one flies without first learning to walk. To be able to put your personal stamp on an interpretation, you need to be so familiar with the original version that you can transcend it.

I know that perfectionism is a bit out of date, and that the order is to deliver a lot of content, as quickly as possible. I also know that there is a time when it is necessary to stop correcting and simply finish the work, but between the inability to put an end to projects and doing stuff in a careless way, there is a vast field to conquer.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Anyone who has ever worked with audio editing deserves my full respect and understanding. I am with you, folks! The reason I find audio editing tasks more strenuous than any other is that I cannot get the help of a companion that I consider essential: music. You give me some chore to do, and I will not complain a bit, as long as I can do listening to some cool music. Always works unless you are editing audio. Got my point?

Audio editing tasks demand a wicked degree of attention. The kind that sucks you into a dark pit, where there is nothing but sounds floating around you. Well, I mean, if you do not live in my apartment, of course. I’ve written here before about my noisy neighbors, but the truth, which I’ve only discovered over the years, is that my apartment is located in a prime location, probably impossible to get on purpose.

Apparently the configuration of my apartment in relation to my building and the buildings around it fulfills the same function of an acoustic shell, which makes me hear from the coffee spoon hitting the rim of the cup of the neighbor next door, to the discussions of the couple who live downstairs about the fate of their cats, not to mention the intense training with B., the dog that belongs to the couple on the top floor, forced to accompany their crazy things, which include walks at seven in the morning on Sunday. And let us not even get into the “wild animals” of the woods in the back street. I just hear everything!

Yes, I admit that sometimes it can be fun to live in the exact spot where all sounds converge. Only sometimes. Most of the time, I feel like I am fighting with half the world to do simple things like listen to a podcast or make a video call. Recording or editing videos in these conditions is extremely tiring and I often say no to some activities I am invited to, simply to save myself the stress of trying to guess (always unsuccessfully) where the noise of the day is coming from.

I plan to move to less strenuous sound conditions as soon as possible, but in the meantime, I try to make the best of my condition by not entirely going against the flow. Let us say that I almost cooperate with it. When the noise is too much, I step away from the computer and complete tasks more accordingly. Using the blender is always a good option to swap one annoying sound for another, more useful one. The washing machine will do the trick as well.

Anything to keep this sound editing going, albeit slowly.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

I recently talked about this podcast I produced for a research group on Comic Art. I asked research colleagues to talk about their experiences in the group, with no limit of time. The result: a very different use of the total time freedom.

If you are invited to participate on a podcast, the golden rule is to check the average length of episodes and act accordingly. To tell you the truth, this rule could also be applied to videos, articles, lectures etc (talking about podcasts, in case you are interested in more hints, I have given a few others on the second part of the last episode of QuaranJazz )

I have always found it a shame that people waste a good chance to express themselves, and since we are talking about comics, I once read a comic strip that said: “no matter what you’re doing, having done it is better.” So funny and yet so true.

Each and every activity well done requires effort (preparing what is going to be said, training, correcting errors, improving the text, recording) and time. To make things worse, most of such participations “as a guest” do not involve any kind of financial compensation. So, after all, why is it important to accept such invitations?

Well, first of all, because they are part of the networking game that any professional has (or should know) to play. Honestly, this argument should be enough on its own, but in case you are the hard-to-be-convinced type, I have others. My favourite is: you have to grab the opportunity when it comes, because there is no certainty that it will return. Ever.

I know we all like to think that nothing and no one can change what fate has in store for us, but if there is one thing life has taught me, it is that, it is always better to have a plan B, in case fate does not honor its part of the deal.

Having a plan B sometimes means to do “boring” stuff (if compared to the thrill of the stage) we would rather not, such as getting a degree or some sort of formal education. This is just an example, but you would not believe how needed good musicians are at schools and universities!

I see so many vacancies being filled by mediocre musicians, but who strive to fulfill the steps that a graduate degree requires, while highly talented musicians do not achieve the deserved recognition, simply because the market is cruel and, let us face the truth, it does not always reward the best and they lack that “piece of paper” to get the job.

Anyway, my two cents are: even if you are invited for a short participation in a small event, or if the invitation is for a short-range program or, say, a local magazine, once you agreed to take part in it, do your best. That includes using all the space you have the right to, always with common sense, obviously.

After the advent of the internet, information just circulates on and on, and you can never know where your message will end up, and by whom it will be seen. Actually, the paradox of the perpetual digital present is that the average opportunity of yesterday is literaly just a click away from becoming the big chance of tomorrow.

It is said that in politics there are no vacant spaces, but I believe the same goes for the opportunities that arise in our lives: if one came your way and you did not use it, someone else will.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

I once heard from a producer that every singer worth his salt has had a Russian ballet teacher in her/his life. No, he did not think singers had first to wear a tutu and get to know the world of pliés and staccatos. What he meant is that great singers always have a story to tell about some strict teacher who turned their life into a real hell, but who was somehow also responsable for their blossom.

The definition of tough love (“promotion of a person’s welfare, especially that of an addict, child, or criminal, by enforcing certain constraints on them, or requiring them to take responsibility for their actions”) explains it very well. Sounds familiar? That means you also had a Rusian ballet teacher in your life (you know: a small lady, exemplary erect and keeping her feet slightly apart, while holding a staff that energetically timed each movement).

One of my favorite representations of the master-apprentice relationship is the movie Whiplash (2014, dir. Damien Chazelle). The soundtrack is superb and the story takes a very interesting approach to the master-apprentice relationship.

On the other hand, an abusive relationship can often be glamorized when observed through the rearview mirror of memory. I had my share of Russian ballet teachers and I can tell you clear and loud: I do not miss those days, not even a tiny bit. To be very honest with you: I am aware of the skills developed through tough love, but its side effects can be devastating and the risk is simply too high to be taken.

Discipline and determination can also be exercised in an environment where it is possible to make mistakes without fear. Encouraging, listening and, most importantly, empathizing are also key elements. In short: before blossowing comes nurturing.

Yellow September, a month dedicated to talking about mental disorders, is coming to an end, but it is always time to remember that our mental health should be a priority in any relationship.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Do you have the feeling that much of your time is being used to return to old projects, review pending issues and, on the other hand, some people you thought you had left completely behind in your life decide to make contact? If your answer is yes, I have two pieces of information for you:

  1. you are not alone and
  2. it is not your fault

In fact, it is nobody’s fault, just a planetary, astrological condition: Mercury is in full retrogradation movement. In other words, looking from our (that is, from Earth´s) point of view, Mercury seems to be moving backwards on its trajectory. Do not be alarmed: everything will return to normal by mid-October, ok?

Until then, my special recipe for those periods that come repeatedly three or four times a year is to simply go with the flow, which in this case means it is time to review, redo, reschedule, repeat, rethink. re… you got the idea. You will be amazed at how productive this cosmic break can be, if you allow yourself to take two steps back and say to your past self: “Honey, we were wrong.” (always be kind to your yourself, remember?)

Recently checking out a project for a podcast, I have found that all the audios needed some sort of review. Details such as the pronunciation of the name of the guest or the fade out effect of the vignette, which had gone completely unnoticed by me, immediately jumped to my eye (or better saying, ears), when I allowed myself to review them with a frrank attitude.

I know that in a world obsessed with the quantity and speed of content production and very little concerned about the quality of that production, proposing a joyful stroll through the land of review can seem strange, to say the least. But how about being different from the crowd just by being careful with what you do? Does it sound too revolutionary to you?

Well, you know, it is like Lou Reed says: sometimes you need to take a walk on the wild side.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Superwoman (Where were you, when I needed you) is a 1972 song by Stevie Wonder and one of my favourites from his vast repertoire. Musically complex and refined, the long history of loss and resentment speaks straight to the heart, as is often the case in the work of this genius musician.

The love story cut short because “Mary wants to be a Superwoman” and the pain-filled, resentful acceptance that follows also seemed like an interesting parallel to the plot twist of last week.

After weeks of hard work, everything seemed to go as planned: I had drawn up a long, detailed work plan for the month and stuck to it, much to my delight. Such a success had not been achieved without effort. I had not slept properly for days, my meal breaks were no real breaks and in the last 48 hours I had not even had time to comb my hair, which gave me the looks of an abominable tropical woman, but did I manage to follow my plan!

I was really feeling like a super woman (resting is for the weak!), when the harsh reality reminded me that even super women need to take care of themselves. I caught a cold, which while far from being a tragedy, can change your productive capacity overnight, not to mention the immediate effect on the voice and singing capacity (after all, singing is air, remember?).

In other words: to fulfill a previously established work plan, I put the final activity (singing) at risk. Seeing it that way, my over busy routine did not make much sense.

Regardless of your area of expertise, I am sure that you, like me, often feel in the middle of a race. Well, we are not. Do not know which practical use these words will have in your life. Probably none, but if you can make room in your heart for things that have no practical use, then maybe someday this statement will be of great value.

Being always busy, running from task to task will not make you live longer, or better. Maybe we should try to weigh more often whether the ends really justify the means. Sometimes the answer is yes, so go for it, and other times it is just not worth it.

Take my superwoman word on that.

Be seeing you!

G. F.