True confessions V: Falling out of love with Rufus

March 16, 2006

Tomb of Rufus

Now that I’ve finished my Rufus seminar, I must confess: over the last 4 months I fell out of love with Rufus.

When I get to know the music of a particular composer or songwriter, I read everything I can about them, I listen to EVERYTHING they have done, I become completely obsessed. This fanaticism pays off in that I am able to learn a lot in a short amount of time. And then after I’ve devoured it all, I ask “is that all there is?” I encourage students to do this with their research: fall in love with what you do, and you’ll get A’s.

I wrote about half of my book under this obsessed whirlwind. And then, when I found out that Cherry Lane Publishing would “not allow” me to print my transcriptions of Rufus’s songs in my book, the wind went out of my sails. I thought I was offering something to a group of people who are dying for his sheet music. Standing back, I realized that this is Rufus’s job, not mine. Many of us are puzzled as to the delay of releasing his songs as sheet music. Is it really Rufus who doesn’t want it out there? Is it that only he wants himself to play his music?

Teaching the Rufus seminar at UCLA was an interesting challenge, as I had fallen out of love with Rufus and yet had to teach a course on his music with the same passion I had when I was obsessed. This is the side of teaching that is most like the acting career: one has to “sell” something to students as if your life depends on it. I “sell” composing in the 12-tone technique as though it were a lost commandment.

I stopped listening to Rufus’s music and put aside working on the book for three months while I taught the course. It was just what the doctor ordered. That respite put some distance between me and my subject, and the time away feels good.

I can now come back to the project with a bit less testosterone and a bit more Tai Chi.

I am once again in love with the music of Rufus Wainwright.

Happy face stamp

Celebrated here in a 1999 stamp, the Happy Face symbol was created 33 years earlier by Seattle ad executive David Stern.

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