The personal blog of Frank Lesko. Award-winning writer. Non-profit entrepreneur. Activist. Religious professional. Foodie. Musician. All around curious soul and Renaissance man.

See also my professional blog: The Traveling Ecumenist.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Composed By, But Not Composed

One of the things that is very exciting about my new job is the chance to play some of my original music at church. I've been a closet liturgical composer for years, rarely showing anything to the light of day. I'm very happy to share, and lately I've been burning the midnight oil rattling off a new group of pieces.

Over the years, I've actually worked on several Masses, Psalm settings and other songs.

I'm always uncomfortable unveiling it, though. Today, I printed off an insert for the bulletin with 3 new songs we are introducing, among them being one of my compositions. It felt awkward to put "written by ..." at the top. It seems to put attention in the wrong place. I'd rather folks enjoy it (or not), and let them interact with it naturally. Knowing the person who penned it is sitting at the piano may turn it into a showpiece and get in the way of an authentic experience. Folks might feel pressure to be polite and make a remark to me, and I don't want them to feel any awkwardness around me.

It also seems rather egotistical to put my own name at the top.

However, not putting anyone's name could raise eyebrows as to copyright infringement!

Granted, when I put the name of a fellow choir member at the top of a tune that she had made, I had nothing but pride in announcing it to the world. But when it's for myself, it is another thing entirely.

However, a couple weeks ago we played another one of my Psalm settings. I didn't tell anybody in the congregation, at first. I finally told the cantor a couple days afterwards. It didn't seem humble to guard this information. It felt like I was hiding myself from the people around me. It felt cold and empty.

Perhaps putting my initials at the top and saying no more about it is enough.

It could also be that I just need to take more time to get to know folks more as a person. How can I write something that lives and breathes the life of this congregation without getting to know it better first? And then if folks see my name at the top of a piece, well, our relationship would have more of a foundation and a little thing like a song wouldn't become the focus because we would something else to build on.

I don't want to obsess, but I want to be tasteful and appropriate. Maybe it's just the Midwestern farmer in me. Deciding whether or not to put my name in 8 or 12 point font, just initials or not at all, should not have the equivalency of a moral dilemma, but there is a cost to not being careful here. It is fun to celebrate and receive attention, but art needs to come before the artist. I don't want to get in the way of folks having an authentic relationship with the music or with me as a person.

Maybe all this talk of humility is really just a decoy. Maybe I'm just scared of exposing myself. Sharing my music means sharing a deep part of myself. If the music is rejected or not liked, does that mean I'm rejected and not liked? Can they be separated? And it's not really about rejection, it is really about me saying this is who I am, this is what I bring to the table, I'm happy to share it! Like it or not, this is who I am. I am present and accounted for and not hiding behind a curtain.