I have been knee deep into the Colors recording project and watching the hours of work and bills grow. I am anything but inspired. I am trying to remember the beauty of music, the profound sense of impact our Colors recording will have on the lives of others, possibly well past our own lives. I don’t expect it all to be a joyous walk in the park, but months before and after the final note was performed in the recording studio, I have devoted probably hundreds of hours to all the details of non musical stuff: editing, mixing, mechanical rights, fund raising, publicity, pre-orders, booking CD release venues, design, program notes and printing, not to mention practicing and recording. And it’s getting to me.
I can barely remember the magic of being immersed in the colors of Debussy, the sounds of Paris during the twilight of the Belle Epoque. I have been behind my computer making release timelines, recording schedules, marking scores for edits, editing cd booklet down to every last accent and period, creating a website, emails and emails and emails and meeting with the designer, the artist, the engineer. And when it all boils down to it, not only am I not being paid for this “other” work, or my playing, I have to pay others to collaborate with me on all these aspects of the project-thousands of dollars in fact, straight on a credit card. Gasp!
Not that every penny wasn’t well spent, and the recipients well deserving.
And it could always be worse. Way worse!
I am only just recalling the vibrancy of the Havana Streets, the thrill of being on stage, the wide-eyed look of reverence from students, the pure joy of the cello vibrating against my rib cage. On the surface it looks like I am not a great businesswoman. I am certainly not an enthusiastic one. Even if I sold 500 CDs the profits would not be much more than what I have spent. I try to make choices that create financial stability in my life, but somewhere this year I got caught between the integrity of needing to follow through on the project, my own passion and an underfunded campaign with unexpected recording costs. I try to remember that, if anything, this is an investment in my overall career as well as my musical partnerships; an investment that could make a difference long term in unforeseen ways. I hope. Truthfully, though, in terms of booking gigs, a video and good photos would have been money better spent if my business self were in charge. But then, that’s not the same as sharing this beautiful music with listeners. In the end, music, not money, will always be my master.
In my morass of frustration I press play. The music takes me back. I am swept up in the beauty of the sound. Tears are in my eyes. The final mix is DONE!! Mastering and a few more edits to the booklet and its off to print. FINALLY!!
I try to like this “extra” stuff of recording projects, I really do, and since SONY Records has yet to knock on my door, it’s either be an entrepreneur or do nothing. The creative force inside of me is undeniable, and the pain of denying this force is worse than the tedium of running my own record label. Making music, and releasing my music is a mandate in my life not just to have a meaningful, passionate existence but somewhat a matter of mental survival.
Knowing all this, I still found myself getting more and more impatient this summer as my cello Lorenzo sat in his case unplayed for almost a month. I groaned and complained to Barbara and Jose, as they rightfully demanded excellence in balance and edits, and I felt like a big fat martyr.Though maybe somewhat justified in my frustration, as I carry the largest workload and risk with this project. I started comparing myself to colleagues who have more perceived success or more support, more opportunities to tour or get recognition than I, and the anger and bitterness mounted. I am not proud of these moments, but somehow they are a part of the path, and the best I can do is be honest and present in these challenges.
I have never worked so hard on a project or been more central in all aspects of the production. As the producer I was the creative vision behind everything from the design to the musical selections. Truly, no CD has been as much my own personal statement as this one. On the other hand, Colors really is a collage of efforts from some of the finest professionals I have ever known, and is an expression of their brilliance. One of my engineers, Robin Moore records for The World, runs her own record label and was amazing at creating the perfect mic set up for my sessions with Barbara. She was also an absolutely generous, patient and steady force in the mixing of the CD-truly an angel. Antonio Oliart, also at WGBH, is a terrific engineer but also helped in the recording session to get the best out of Jose and my performance. The artist for the cover, Gayle Kabaker has had her work twice on the cover of the New Yorker. She travelled with us to Cuba, sketched the whole week and created the most amazing art for the CD cover in collaboration with designer Alexis Neubert. Jose Lezcano was nominated twice for a Grammy, and wrote an amazing Sonata that is included in the CD. His extra pair of ears were invaluable in the mixing. In addition to being a long time collaborator of the highest order, and one of the kindest human beings you will ever meet, Barbara played with such technical precision in our recording session that the editing process was a breeze. My student Mike Fein, a professional photographer, captured our recording session with some of these terrific photos you see here. And another student Vince Canzonieri assisted in keeping track of our takes and any missed notes during recording. Zeke Hecker looked through my program notes with a skilled eye for punctuation and grammar and how to simplify the text. Connie Clarke gave me amazing assistance in navigating the challenge of being both a musical colleague and producer for the CD. Norma Johnson is assisting me with publicity and mailing the CD to national publications. Numerous sponsors and other supporters of the project, too many to mention, while not covering the full cost of the CD, made a huge difference in my overall level of investment, allowing the project to be done without cutting any corners.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my husband Wesley Fleming, who has been in the trenches with me and bearing my complaints and seeing the expenses rise that will impact him as well. He did website work for the project and more than anything, is doing his best to navigate this tricky business of being life partners, business partners and friends. He has stood by me through both success and failure.
I am looking forward to the joy and meaning this music will bring to others. And a little joy for me too!