Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Artist as Good Enough

Recently a musician acquaintance made a comment online disparaging arrogance among musicians. He mused, I'll paraphrase, that even the best among us are still works in progress without license to be condescendingly confident. The idea of being "good enough" was thrown out there.

I hope he was saying that none of us are good enough to justify arrogance. My concern is if he also intended to imply that we will never be good enough, period. That is to say that we should never reach a point where we are happy with what we are expressing artistically, and if we do not feel hunted by an insatiable feeling of dissatisfaction, we can never be great. Whatever this uniquely talented musician meant, the idea is persistent in my experience of the art world.

In art, we study, we copy, we exercise, we create, we destroy, and we create again. Some of us do this to move vertically, upwards to a better art, closer to a set of rules defined by an amalgam of our predecessors. This amalgam is a bundle of not too dissimilar artists, gathered together by analysts, given a name borrowed from some artist in some other bundle, and synthesized into neat volumes. We have but to follow the instructions provided.

In fits and spurts, I have striven for betterness. Ironically, my expectation that I should push myself toward an ideal expression, one defined outside of myself, has led me to work less hard and to turn away from opportunities to make art. I fear that I could never make it to the ideal, so I don't move toward it. Or I fear that if I were to achieve it, whatever would be there waiting for me, futility perhaps, would be unpleasant.

I think there may be room in artistic expression for those volumes of clearly-defined parameters, not existing as ends in themselves, but rather as beautiful mirages. When we get to them, or possibly somewhere along the way, their apparent corporeality dissipates, and we discover something else we never would have seen otherwise.

As a high schooler, I wanted to join the Tonight Show stage band, not a well-defined artistic tradition in itself, but an objective which to me had a specific set of perceived prerequisite skills. The desire faded throughout my collegiate exploration of the deeper levels of music, and by the time Branford took over the only Tonight Show saxophone book in 1992, the year I finished my last undergraduate class, I was on to other things.

It was the Tonight Show ideal that guided me for a while, then it was another, and then something different. I do a disservice to myself if I hold on to the first thing for the sole reason that I haven't conquered it, yet. Moving on to the next thing may be ok, and it may even be right and good.

So instead of upward artistic mobility, I'm wondering if it isn't more helpful to think of what we do as a kind of lateral evolution, using nature and art as inspiration, recognizing personal expression as perfect in its fluidity, and choosing to make changes as they seem right. In this model, all artistic expression is equal, and we are all good enough.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Music for Piano and Organ at Tuskegee's University Chapel (4/19/2015)

Pianist Barbara Acker-Mills will perform a joint
recital with organist Wayne Barr on April 19, 2015.
Photo by Lesley Foote.

Pianist Barbara Acker-Mills and organist Wayne Barr will present a recital in Tuskegee on Sunday, April 19 at 4:00 pm in the University Chapel. In addition to solo works for both instruments, the two will team up for a serious organ/piano duo by Clifford Demarest (one of the first serious pieces for the two instruments together) and a not-so-serious duet by PDQ Bach.

Dr. Barr heads the choral program at Tuskegee. His full bio is on this Tuskegee University page but does not include him playing with the 105 Voices of History choir at the Kennedy Center in 2008 and 2009.

I've played with Barbara quite a bit at the museum and elsewhere with the now-hibernating Woodfield Trio, and she's done a few solo performances at the museum. She manages a private piano studio ( in Auburn and teaches psychology at Tuskegee. She actually serves as organist at Holy Trinity Episcopal church in Auburn, but will leave the organ playing to Dr. Barr for this recital.

Tuskegee U. doesn't list an event page, but here's the chapel page which doesn't list an address, but it's right in the middle of campus. If it helps, I've pinned it on Google Maps at this link:

[UPDATE 4/19/2015 - There is, in fact, an event page of sorts on TU's website: For first time in five years, faculty to perform recital.]

Saturday, March 7, 2015

the opening

Can't lay down because I can't breathe
I missed it
Tasting the first goal of the night
advancing to tomorrow morning
Nasty Bomb!!!!! come to life
You have one year of pissing everyone off
the memories are still going to watch your diligence

Happy Authenticity
yay!!! high five from friends
but it once had Skin
going to be time to get yours!
going to be kind of important

I found it surprised me
with sweet Golden midnight
My push button
eat it while I walk Married Life
I am sure this heaven with saxes and brass
starts to have a party in my other body

Patrick McCurry
March 2015


I wrote this using words and phrases from about 37 consecutive entries (except two pictures without captions) appearing on my Facebook news feed. All of the words are in the order I found them, and I limited each entry to yielding only one set of consecutive words. The title came from the entry immediately after the last entry quoted. I thought maybe it was an erasure poem but Gary over on Facebook suggested that it is more of a found poem. Jason said it could be flarf poetry.

Monday, February 23, 2015

[students only] Humming House in concert Tuesday, March 3rd

The band Humming House performs on 3/3 at 7:00 pm as part of the new Red Barn Series on Auburn's campus. It's free and open exclusively to current students at Auburn in case any of those read my posts. Here's an event page of sortsThis is the first I've heard of the group. They sound good on YouTube, and it looks like it'll be fun.

Below is edited from a news release they sent me. I know, I'm like press, now! Here's the full unedited release. Go and write a review. I'll post it on my site, and for your trouble, you can get in free to my next gig.

This is the picture they sent with the release. Click it to see a
totally different look in a video of them playing music.
Nashville quintet Humming House is set to release a new album, Revelries, on March 24, 2015, via Nashville label Rock Ridge Music (with distribution via ADA). With self-described interwoven threads of folk, soul, bluegrass and more, the band presents acoustic instrumentation—mandolin, fiddle, acoustic guitar, and bass.

American Songwriter called their music “infectious and grin-inducing.” Roughstock dubbed Humming House “darned close to perfect.” Huffington Post just named the band one of the “peak musical performers of 2014.”

Says band founder Justin Wade Tam: “We’re thrilled to release a new set of musical narratives into the world. Revelries embodies our adventures on the road, our evolution as a band, our love of storytelling, and our insatiable desire to have a good time on stage and off.”

Produced by Grammy winner Mitch Dane and mixed by Grammy winner Vance Powell (Jack White, Buddy Guy), Revelries is the third recording bearing the name Humming House.

Friday, February 20, 2015

[interview] Brazilian Choral Music Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015

The AU Chamber Choir will perform Sunday (2/22) at 2:30 pm at Auburn First Baptist Church. Writing about these things is time consuming, but what with all the Brazilian music, the guest conductor/composer, and the two world premiers, I really wanted to cover it, so I thought maybe I could record an interview instead. William Powell came over at lunchtime while I was making hot dogs for me and my son John's lunch (it comes up).

Click here for the event page. Click the big arrow below to hear the interview.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


When Winter is gone,
I will miss the trees,
Pointing with their fleshless fingers
To all the different heavens
And tempting me with death.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Day Poem from the Paaaaaaast

Valentine's Day is my birthday, and we had family to the house today for cake and coffee. Mom read a poem she found that I wrote when I was 7, almost 8. I was in second grade at Clemmons School (Clemmons, NC) my one childhood year I spent away from Auburn.

Of course, I've scanned it and embedded the images of both pages on this blog post below.

I have no memory whatsoever of writing this, but I have to agree with Ms. Atwood's underlined "Good" and "A" grade, because what is art without its critics. And look how nice the cursive was! Here's the poem...
Valentine's Day 
A cupid, a heart, and a dove
And a sweet little message of love —
Oh, that's what I got
For the one who alot
Of this day I have spent thinking "ove"
I feel flippy,
I feel fizzy,
I feel whoopy,
I feel whizzy.
I feel wonderful.
Im feeling just fine.
Because you just gave me,
A valentine.
Don't give me any wine,
Don't rub your hand down my spine,
Come on be tough.
Don't do all that stuff —
Just be my valentine. 
Awesome job, 7-year-old Patrick.