The Making of Studio G

Day 340 Week 50 Q4  Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Some of the time, where you live impacts your creative process in surprising ways. Here are a few real examples that are in retrospect humorous but while they are happening not so funny. So you move from one coast to the other. Here in the US, I can assure you that life in California is not the same as life in New York. If you want to be a tech entrepreneur  Silicon Valley feels awfully different than, say, New England. Both places have a ton of talent and money, but the attitude toward innovation is very, very different. But I am going to leave that one alone at the moment, for it is in the process of changing, I think, or I hope? 

Then there is the fact that east coast houses tend to have basements, and Bay Area California houses tend not to. One would think, wow, I have a 1500 square foot basement, and this will permit me to make a laboratory and a studio and still store things. Well, this might be the case if one did not have a wonderful small river in the backyard under 100 feet from the house, which makes for a great view from the deck but also means the water table is high enough that your basement occasionally becomes a swimming pool which is not so good for electric type gear. 

But the largest one impacting me, as a musician with a lot of musical instruments, some of which are made of wood is there is a vast differential in humidity between living 100 feet from the Pacific Ocean and living 150 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. And yes, having the seasons and beautiful fall foliage is wonderful, but having the humidity drop to 30% tends to wreak havoc with things like grand pianos, acoustic guitars, and cellos. Whoops. And it can take a few years to fully understand just how terrible this is for the health of instruments. And then you realize, oh, we need to humidify the house but wait, this is not simple. The water comes from a well, and it has very mineral content, which tends to completely inundate filters on humidifiers, making it not so easy to have large housewide humidifier that does not require a lot of maintenance. In fact, it is not only hard, but it is also impossible. 

So over the course of a few years when your beloved grand piano, which forms the foundation of your emotional equilibrium and sanity by providing a ready mechanism for dissipating energy and soothing one’s psyche, becomes not so grand a piano after all. And this takes time and energy and a built-in humidifier in the piano, which then has to be watered regularly in the winter. I never expected to have entries in my calendar that said: “watered the piano.” And the piano has still not quite recovered from living right on an ocean with relatively stable moisture content in the air to such a variable one, which by the way, also precludes putting in a wood-burning stove or fireplace to another major bummer.

But the most recent workflow change has been the conversion of my office in Studio G, which is essentially a guitar humidor. Guitars seem to prefer humidity between 45 and 55 percent, and when the air becomes so dry that it drops below 35, they begin to crack, as do sound boards in pianos. Eventually, over a few years, it became clear the best way to protect the acoustical instruments was to humidify my office, which essentially resulted in having to take everything out of the closet but instruments and having to work around cellos, guitars and basses, which kind of seriously reduced the floor space but do make my zoom calls have a more interesting background.

All of this is not really so much a complaint as a statement ht there are many unanticipated things that can impact your creative workflow when you move, even if you think you have more space, more privacy, a lower cost of living, a river to watch when washing the dishes, all of which are true. But then there is well water, humidity, flooding and, oh, the psychological attitude of a rural conservative community versus a metropolitan progressive community which can impact your earning ability by far more than the physical environmental factors. And the psychological environment of moving from a pro-change culture to an anti-change culture.

But the foliage is gorgeous, the density of art people versus tech people is another breath of fresh air, and having a larger house on five acres instead of a smaller one on one-tenth that much permits you never to see or hear your neighbors. And did I mention this all costs a quarter of what it costs to live in the Bay Area on the ocean?

So yeah, your creative process can most certainly be majorly impacted by where you live in all sorts of ways, some anticipated and some not. I used to have an office and still do in the summer, but in the winter months, it becomes Studio G.

I never thought I was going to have a guitar studio instead of an office!

Maybe it is time to admit that I have changed from a tech entrepreneur to a composer and musician.