RIP Dennis Irwin + The State of Creativity

13 03 2008

So news is coming out that NY jazz bassist Dennis Irwin has sadly passed away at the age of 56. He died of cancer which he was diagnosed with not too long ago, and which has led to much talk on the blogosphere and in a few publications. He sadly had to face this illness without health insurance, a problem shared with fellow NY jazz player Andrew D’Angelo who is currently dealing with a similar situation. This has raised quite a debate online fueled largely by the fact that many in the creative sector of NY and the U.S. at large do not have health insurance. There are arguments on both sides (luckily in America we always deal with things from 2 sides to keep it as unhelpful as possible) but we can all agree that not having health insurance sucks, and that not being able to make a decent living in a field that you have worked in your whole life also sucks.

This is definitely a big problem, and one that you can approach from many angles. Some people feel that as artists, they deserve to be treated better (i.e. more funding, higher wages, healthcare). Another approach is to hold down some sort of part time employment to help pay the bills. Still another approach (interestingly favored by the most avant of the avant-garde) is to secure a college level teaching position and work on your music from there. There are many other ways to make money, but the sad truth right now seems to be that playing the music you want to play has nothing to do with making a living. When you look at the development of music throughout history, making good money from your music is a relatively new concept. The tough part of the job (unless you go the “sideman” route*) is that once you have worked hard to develop a unique voice, then not only do you have to figure out how to get the music out there, but also how to get paid for it so that you can keep on creating. It’s a vicious cycle that is all too familiar to anyone trying to advance anything in any area of anything in the U.S. People like to appreciate art from afar, but because of the easy accessability of pop culture, art too often gets lost in the shuffle (because it’s creators are honing their crafts, then trying to figure out how to get the art out there, then trying to figure out how to make a living from it). When art does make it into pop culture, you almost always find out that the artist had been struggling for years, and something they did clicked with the right individual (i.e. someone willing to invest in them). This brings up a whole slew of other questions about art and the artist, and unfortunately NO answers.

Score 1 for Life, 0 for Art.

Sorry for the depressing post guys, but the scene these days can be depressing (you know, when you look at the facts and stuff).

*I’m am in no way saying that the “sideman” route is easy.  It actually is probably harder because you develop a way of playing to the point that you attract others who want to play with you, then you are usually depending on them to continue hiring you or for new people to like and hire you, and therefore living a life of constant stress!




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