Extraordinarily Ordinary

For the last eleven months, I’ve had crippling auto-immune issues. Like, six asthma attacks a day, can’t breathe, skin peeling off my body from eczema, constant pain type auto-immune issues.

It’s finally, after months of medication and meditation and everything under the sun to try to make it stop, starting to lift. I feel ordinary. I’m not constantly aware of my own inhalation, I can shower without following up with six rounds of perscription-only steroid cream, and I can work as hard as I used to without getting tired.

This was my ordinary, eleven months ago. But it’s so extraordinary to be back to it, again.

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Trying Again

I started this blog three years ago, in my third year of undergrad, because I wanted a place to write about music and life, and to reflect on all the tiny things in life that we relegate to being ‘ordinary’ when, in fact, they’re extraordinary, but also commonplace and connective, and so, ignored. I Had A Dream. I was going to write music to celebrate all these things that don’t get sung about, like non-romantic love, and the changing of the seasons, and (one of my ‘ordinary’ things) the joys and drudgery of being in a library with a ton of knowledge to internalize and not enough time to learn it all. The fact that I can scan across a page or screen and understand the thoughts of someone else’s mind.

I still think all of those things could form the spine of a worthy compositional project. I’d still like to sing about all of them. And, at a slower pace than I once planned, I probably still will. But, being realistic, I’m not in undergrad anymore. I’m in the middle of a Master’s degree in musicology, and taking on a composition project that big (my original goal was to write one new song per week!) while writing a thesis, taking classes, editing a journal, studying for the comps, revising my first publication, mastering German, and working as a teaching assistant is, well, foolish. But I still feel like I need a place to pay more attention to those things that so often go overlooked, a place to gain perspective, a place to both listen and create — and, also, a place to share thoughts about music and -ology before they’re ready to go into citable format. So, the new goal is to pay attention, and share some of those insights and ideas about life and music, the things that excite me or make me reflect. Some of it will be in prose, some of it will be in music, but in a life with these many deadlines, I’m going to (with no small amount of glee, I’ll admit) set no timeline, no due date, no ‘assignment guidelines.’ Just a goal of not letting life and music – ‘ordinary’ or otherwise – go by unnoticed, unexamined, and unappreciated.

The biggest thing I noticed when I stumbled across this blog is that, as an undergrad, I didn’t take the fact that I get to live out a life of music for granted yet. I had a late start in music, and getting to pursue it, in any way, was my deepest dream. Upon reflection, the experiences of a life in music that I’ve lived out over these last three years have been beyond my wildest dreams: I graduated from music school with honours. I’ve paid the bills, more often than not, by teaching and writing about music. I got into graduate school with enough funding to make ends meet. I’ve continually been given mentors who challenge, inspire, and nourish me as a scholar, musician, and person. I’ve been successful in a field that used to seem completely elusive.

And while I haven’t forgotten to be grateful or joyful about those successes, about hard work paying off, I did, somewhere along the line, start to take my life in music for granted; the joy of getting to learn about music and commit my life to it, the fact of being able to live a life of music, separate from the fact of success or failure, got lost somewhere in the stress, in the struggle to keep improving. While stress and the desire to do better are never going to go away (I’m pretty sure musicologist and perfectionist are synonymous words), I need to not lose sight of why I’m here.

I didn’t originally pursue music and a music degree because I wanted to be successful, or because I thought I might be good at it. In fact, when I started, I sucked. But I pursued music anyway, because nothing else made me quite as happy, made me feel quite as alive — nothing held the same level of passion. The work, the music, is itself the reward; if success comes, then fantastic. But the true gift is just getting to wake up every day and live a life of music. Over the years, it’s become my norm, my ordinary day, the old friend whose companionship and presence is beloved, but taken for granted.

I lost sight of how extraordinary it is that my dream came true. And I’m starting this blog again because I need to remember to appreciate and cherish my ‘ordinary’ days.

Composing

Hello, blogosphere!

I am currently composing some stuff that I’m really excited about. I can’t wait to share it with you! It will be coming along shortly. Hope you stay tuned.

Are you up to any awesome, creative stuff (no need to be modest!)? I’d love to hear about it and see/hear it!

What if we sang about everything?

What if we sang about everything?

It’s a question I keep asking myself, as I make my way through this great wide world. What if we turned on the radio, or opened up our iTunes libraries, to find music that expresses more than just beginnings and endings, that reminds us that just to be alive and breathing – something we consider ordinary – is actually extraordinary, and worth singing about?

Let’s be honest. There’s a whole lot of middle in life – some exciting, some dull, some parts simple, some parts complex. But isn’t it all worth exploring in sound, a little more than it currently is?

Hello, by the way! My name is Rena, and I’m so happy you’ve stumbled across this project! I’m a singer, piano player, and sometimes songwriter, whose life is split between Nova Scotia throughout the academic year, and BC the rest of the time. A lot of my musical energy goes into completing my undergraduate musicology degree, but I can’t help but think that there’s so much to communicate and express that has no place in my papers, which are all based on solid fact and reason and logic (at least, I like to think so)! But those things that don’t make it into my papers still deserve to be said and communicated.

I’m also a struggling/lapsed Catholic. Catholics, as many may know, have a season of religious activity called Ordinary Time. And for that Ordinary Time, they have music. I kind of started wondering why everyone doesn’t sing about everything, because I wondered why Catholics should have all the fun. Shouldn’t we all have music for our Ordinary Time?

Because, really, what is ordinary? Breathing, eating, sleeping, drinking, working, playing, loving, creating, feeling isolated, feeling connected, feeling hurt, feeling happy. Living. We all live – so are the things contained in that life, those little things, really all that ordinary? Or are they just a bunch of little extraordinary things that we relegate to being ordinary, because they’re common and connective among us?

Whatever the answer is, it’s those moments, and those things that make up life, that I want to create music for.

So, here’s hoping I will see you soon, with some music!

Rena