SetList

setlist
"Crazy begets crazy. How else could any love last?"

After writing songs for more than half a century, I've yet to manage to maintain a half-decent Setlist. I most often grab rather blindly when The Muse insists that I perform a short set after one of our suppers. I quite often forget a chord progression or reverse important lyrics to render pitiful my performance. I then return my trusty D-18 to its coffin-like case and set about embarrassingly studying my shoes. Having written a tune hardly qualifies me to perform that tune, and even someone with my experience still needs to practice, practice, practice, even if I never really expect to make it to Carnegie Hall. I well-understand that I really should play every day, but I do not and have not, seemingly wasting my talent. In recent weeks, though, I've begun to play a bit more, fueled by a particularly embarrassing attempt to play just a single song for visiting friends. We all managed to change the subject, but that belly-flop really stung.

Any performer mostly performs for an audience of one, comprised of the most critical observer in the universe, so practicing easily becomes an exercise in serial self abuse.
I've never once yet perfectly performed any of my songs, and even when I repeat a single tune a half dozen times, I never seem to manage to cover all the shortcomings; fresh ones creep in with each repetition. Practice never makes perfect, and the aspiration for perfection amounts to self defeat. Performing seems more like meditating, where the incumbent must maintain a steady indifference to the actual quality of the experience in order to create any sort of quality experience. One plays through the shortcomings rather than stopping the forward flow to excuse or, heaven forbid, fail to correct the imperfection. It really should be a period of generous acceptance rather than any scolding match. I remain my most virulent enemy.

I currently have four tunes on my SetList. These four seem to have emerged as my favorites, and though The Muse might call out for a selection not on the present list, I'm wise to stick with what I have queued up and ready. Divergences too easily turn into discrediting demerits. I'd much rather enjoy the experience of repeating what I've already learned than repeating the lesson that I should only perform what I down-solid know. A few years ago, I thought I might chronicle developing a complete SetList featuring a cool dozen tunes that might stretch a single performance into a short hour or so. I lost that mantra about four tunes in. Truth told, I forget about the songs I've written until some shred of one comes visiting. I might be walking down an unnoteworthy street when a blast from my distant past commences to theme song my progress. "I was born on an inland sea, hard on an inland sea …" and I'll feel transported back a few decades to a front porch swing where that tune originally visited me. I'll painfully disinter the damned thing, struggling to exactly recall the verses and perhaps finding the chorus utterly unrecoverable, but I will have been good and poisoned/blessed, and moved to pick up the old guitar when I return home and to sometimes even delight myself with a glimpse of some long-forgotten genius.

I consider every song I've ever written to be an act of genius, not always pure genius, but at least an accidental convergence of power I previously had no clue I possessed. In this way, writing any song serves as a blessing, for any self-respecting blessing should surprise the recipient. I hold no special skill. My genius visits me, intruding into my typically drooling existence, often shocking me (if nobody else). Acceptance seems the key, like with practicing. Whenever anything one sincerely feels unworthy of receiving appears, humility might reasonably result.

I approach my guitar with considerably circumspection. I'm almost never certain if I'm in that moment properly prepared to receive a fresh injection of grace. I might avoid developing that full SetList because I feel too unworthy of receiving any blessing in such volume. I can almost always muster acceptance for a bite or two, but the full meal often chases me away. Still, I feel fresh motivation to move toward finally mustering at least a slightly larger set, perhaps a fine half dozen tunes would constitute a decent next step. My heart sings even when my fingers cannot quite bear to pluck those strings. My head clears when I perform. Time slows down. My brain shifts into a different processing mode and I either disappear or finally come into focus. "Crazy begets crazy. How else could any love last?"

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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