From Lyndia's Heart and Spirit
To me, a true artist is someone who answers the creative call -- who listens to the call, dives deep within themself, wrestles with all of the doubt and despair, gathers the disparate inner voices and weaves something beautiful from the chaos. This can be with paint, wool, paper, words, sounds, or in more worldy ways -- a chef, a housekeeper, a nurse, a mother - it doesn’t matter -- it is about listening to the call, following the clues, completing the process and producing something authentic. Artists are the wayshowers --- they are keepers of the creative process and by their efforts they shine light on the twists and turns of life’s path. If they are truly authentic - they paint the road maps, sing out the roadsigns, show the next step in the journey.
Interviewing Lyndia Radice in the Salon du Muse
HB. Perfecting technically challenging trumpet pieces such as Concerto for Trumpet by Pachmutova is challenge enough for most people. Is it the case that, the classical musical training that enabled you to meet such a challenge, in turn enabled you to leave the creative wasteland that you found yourself in when your musical career ended?
L.R. I've given your question some thought and realized that I had some interesting reactions to parts of it. First -- I think when one begins to train seriously as a musician (or, alternatively as a dancer, athlete, mathemetician or indeed any profession which requires enormous discipline), a person tends to develop tunnel vision. There is a moment when the amateur changes to apprentice when the basic skills no longer serve. In order to refine their skills an individual has to focus intensely on minutiae -- such as intricate fingerwork, accuracy of intonation, tonal coloration. Learning a challenging piece of music and preparing it for performance is not unlike diving into an unknown ocean. It requires the same determination, intensity and fearlessness. As I developed as a professional musician, I specialized in baroque music but also performed with a contemporary music ensemble. The repertoire for that group was provided by new composers who were eager to push the limits of performance practice. So, learning their works were constant and, often, not very pleasant experiences since the music was often dissonant and painful to play.
The number one skill that I learned as a musician was the ability to sustain myself while working alone for long periods of time. This did not mean just staying by myself in a room practicing, but being able to remain motivated and interested while challenging myself to plunge deeper into a piece of music. I had to find inner resources for which I might not have searched if I had been involved in a different career. When I was honing a particularly difficult piece of music, it was my task to figure out how to adjust my skills to the demands of the music - there was no one else who could figure that out for me. I think this helped me develop a sense of inner confidence about my ability to problem solve and a stronger sense of self reliance.
The refinement of technical abilities - such as well developed hearing, acuity, excellent fine motor skills, hypervigilance (orchestra musicians are always one page ahead due to their development of sight reading skills and need to follow not only the conductor but to take in the entrances and exits of the other instruments) and ability to resonate with other musicians - served me well as I entered the business arena.
When I left the musical world, there was an explosion occuring in the business world in NYC. Mergers and Acquisitions - the 1980s were the time of easy money. Investment banks were trading companies and funding startups so there was a demand for literate people to work as temporary computer operators. A temporary worker had to be willing to work long hours, particularly nights and weekends. The requirements were that I could type fast, quickly learn new computer software and be able to keep up with speed of these merger king bond traders and investment bankers.
It was a very strange world -- investment bankers were making millions in a weekend as they bought and sold companies. Generally, I worked for young men and women who were intent on becoming "masters of the universe" as they were called by Tom Wolfe. They worked at a frantic pace, writing up prospectuses, preparing slideshows, making presentations, and I quickly learned several wordprocessing programs and figured out how to write simple computer programs, all while I was rapidly typing away. The volume of work was so large that bankers began to fight over the best temps -- they would lure us with free dinners, limo rides and cash bonuses if we would work exclusively for them. The atmosphere at the time was not unlike a wild west town during a gold rush- the sheriff had not yet arrived.
The most successful temps were freelance musicians. Freelance musicians are instrumentalists who are hired on a per concert basis. A conductor needs an orchestra so he hires people for 3 rehearsals and a concert. Often, they have never played together before. They are able to quickly assess a situation and integrate themselves into a system.
At the time that I was working in business, freelance musicians ruled the temporary computer operator world. Our ability to memorize served us well, we were able to quickly figure out computer programs (I believe this has to do with endless hours of memorizing musical figures which function very similarly to computer languages). Our fingers were nimble from years of practicing -- I think there is nothing more remarkable than watching the gestures of a classical pianist while typing. I became particularly adept at transcribing dictation tapes in two languages - all those years of "musical dictation and ear training" in university finally paid off. I often was able to figure out indescipherable requests from difficult bosses for whom others refused to work. I attribute that to skill peculiar to musicians. I think that musicians develop "second hearing" not unlike a psychic's "second sight" from all those hours playing chamber music. In a really fine chamber ensemble, the players breathe and make music as a unit and they tend to intuit information from each other. (this skill served me well as a therapist, particularly with language delayed children).
And, most importantly, we were accustomed to working under highly stressful, frequently uncomfortable conditions with demanding, overwrought bosses. It was not unusual to spend 5 hours straight typing up reams of handwritten notes that were thrown at you by three screaming business analysts, only to spend the next three hours preparing slide presentations and finishing up having to oversee the final production at the overnight printers. I remember beginning work on one project at 5PM Friday and ending up at sunrise on Sunday making a delivery to a plane leaving for Japan. That really isn't that much different than the last week of preproduction for an opera or the time spent in a recording studio working on an album. Remember how I referred to "tunnel vision" in the first paragraph of this essay? Without tunnel vision, I wouldn't have been able to follow through. As a musician I was accustomed to blocking out the extraneous only to focus on what was important and this was highly valued by employers accustomed to workers who wanted to go home, take lunch or take a break.
When I look back now, I see how skewed this whole period of my life was. I was still trying to figure out where I belonged, so I transferred my splinter skills to another arena. Splinter skills is a term used with autistic individuals. Splinter skills usually refer to talents and unique competence by a person that is disproportional to how that person functions is other areas of their life. With an autistic individual, being able to play the piano really well or memorizing long passages would be considered a splinter skill because the person is having difficult doing the everyday things expected for someone their age.
Or, perhaps, I should call them survival skills. I ended up transferring my skills when I started working as a child therapist. It is only now that I see that I was really honing myself - learning about who I am and why I am here and what it is I am supposed to be doing. It has only taken me 50 years to get this far. I guess there is still hope.
H.B.The world of investment bankers, with tunnel vision, who think they will become masters of the universe, must seem surreal now in comparison to working with women in the Amazon. Use memorable moments to help explain how your heart and spirit responded to each experience and how your heart feels as it pipes lines onto the page in your studio in New York.
It is easy and difficult to answer this question. Easy now, in retrospect because I seem finally to have arrived at that place where some of the events in my life are starting to make sense (it only took 52 years to get to the door). But difficult because going back brings up a lot of confusion and painful memories. It is only in retrospect (with the safe distancing provided by time) that patterns and answers start to emerge.
My life experiences take on a surreal cast when I look at them through a stereo-opticon viewer. What I mean is - when I hold a memory of my time working with high powered attorneys or investment bankers on one side and compare it to a memory of a time in the jungle on the other and try to bring them into focus -- the initial feeling is disorientation. I then have to remind myself that it is the outer trappings - the environment, clothes, mannerisms and language that cloud the experience. The quality of inner values is what clarifies and unites. What I have learned is that, essentially, we mortals are all the same. We are needy and we fight to fill our emptiness. At bottom, we all want to eat, stay dry, feel safe and be loved. However, how each of us defines our needs and goes about getting them satisfied is what creates the differences and the difficulties.
The Shuar community where I lived was a series of huts spread out in a small territory in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The people were originally hunter/gatherers who roamed the territory and lived in quickly constructed reed huts. When they had depleted the game and vegetation of one area, they would move to another section of the territory. With the coming of government regulations and oil and gold prospectors, the community was at risk of losing their lands so they were forced to settle into permanent communities to maintain their land rights. Most families have built more permanent housing (generally larger, more elaborate huts or wood framed cabins with tin roofs) and have planted small plots of vegetables and started raising chickens. The majority of community members lived very simply.
One family with whom I lived briefly had a small one room wooden house with a tin roof that was raised off of the ground to protect it from flooding from the nearby river. They had about 10 chickens and 20 guinea pigs that lived in the small cooking hut behind the house. Most of their time was spent fishing or hunting for small game. They lived about a 4 hour walk from the community center, which consisted of the church, elementary school huts and general store. The only source of cash income they had was making and selling seed necklaces and spears to sell to infrequent tourists.
One evening, we sat around after dinner and they asked me to describe life in New York City. I had brought a small album of photographs showing my family, neighborhood, street and apartment building in Manhattan. We had some things in common -- I also live in one room, except mine is 5 floors higher off the ground and I use an elevator to get to my door. I live near a river (the Hudson) but I can't swim in it. The hardest concept for them to grasp was the amount of money I paid for living expenses. This was a family whose total yearly income rarely topped 150 dollars. The figures I mentioned for rent, food and comparable essentials were astronomical in their eyes. They could not grasp that I was paying $1000 per month for rent -- the daughter immediately stated "you are so rich".
There was no way to explain that, in my world, I was definitely not rich (at least in a monetary sense. I think I am very rich and privileged in most other parts of my life). Living in New York is outrageously expensive and, in order to earn the money necessary to live, I had two jobs and sometimes worked more than 50 hours per week. That also seemed incomprehensible since there was no concept of "job" or "hours per week" in their world. A man hunted until he got the family dinner and a woman gathered enough roots and vegetables to stock the kitchen and make the beer for the week and the rest of the day was free. Some days were devoted to very hard labor but most were spent at leisure. A treat for the kids was to knock down a palm tree and let them eat the grubs crawling on the inside. And one of the most beautiful ways to spend time was just to sit -- to sit and listen to the birds and monkeys and insects.
Now let's contrast that with the young investment bankers and attorneys with whom I worked during the gold rush days of mergers and acquisitions in the 1980s in New York City. Young men and women were entering the world of work with starting salaries of over $50,000 per year (starting salaries now are closer to $90,000) and seemingly endless possibilities for financial success. Bonuses of $250,000 and up were not uncommon and full partners were receiving bonuses in the millions.
Entering into that universe was not unlike visiting a frontier town during a gold rush. As a temporary employee, I was neither banker or salary person; therefore I had an interesting vantage point for observation. Since all projects had deadlines, the expectation was that everyone would work around the clock. The project leaders and their young assistants were focused to grasp those elusive bonuses. Salaried staff, ineligible for bonuses, were not nearly as interested or devoted, so an almost unlimited expense account was used to cajole the salaried troops to continue plugging away. When they finally balked because they wanted to return to their families, the temporary workers were brought in. Meals were delivered from fancy restaurants, limousines were sent to pick up the laundry, lavish gifts of flowers and food were sent to tempt the weary. Conversations revolved around how to make more money, and "creative" ways of spending it. There was an abundance of fancy watches, expensive pens, briefcases and designer clothes. Long discussions compared gourmet restaurants, spa resorts and first class air travel. Among the partners, the topic of choice was real estate (one needed the apartment in the city and the house at the beach), cars and private school fees for the children (it is not uncommon for yearly tuition to top $20,000 for kindergarten.)
My way of life at that time was as incomprehensible to this group of people as it was to the people in the jungle. I had no desire to devote myself to making money (I was recruited several times for entry level positions that would have paved the way to an MBA or a law degree - each time I refused the reaction was one of utter disbelief. Somehow, I have always had that little voice inside that pulled me toward deeper exploration of self, of creativity, of the meaning of why we are here - and I knew, even at my most confused periods, that devotion to making money would only take me further away from myself.