The Wheel Is Turning (and You Can't Slow It Down)

It is a known fact that one of the only constants we know in this life is change. Whether you deal with it well or poorly, change will occur. And the

It is a known fact that one of the only constants we know in this life is change. Whether you deal with it well or poorly, change will occur. And the ways in which change comes about are as interesting as how one deals with it.

Change can come in a brutally sudden and unexpected way or it can be so subtle that only upon retrospection do you realize that it occurred. You might see it coming, which is the ever-popular “handwriting on the wall” effect, or you might deliberately plan it and cause it to happen.

One of the most interesting harbingers is when events unfold in a way that gives the impression that somebody has scripted the whole thing, or, at the least, set in motion an elaborate mechanism. Things seem to fall into place like the cards in a hand of poker.

In fact, this previous manifestation is how I started my career in audio. Having done stints at Berklee College of Music and the tiny but mighty Boston School of Electronic Music, I was playing in a band and supporting myself working the graveyard shift at a copy store in Harvard Square, staring at a copier's green light all night long. The store had a lot of turnover and absenteeism. (It was staffed mostly by college students working for extra cash.) For some reason, I was more conscientious than most, even showing up once in a blizzard that was so bad that they'd already closed the store.

One day I called in 12 hours before my shift to tell my boss that I wouldn't be able to come in that night. When I called in the next day, they'd fired me. No big loss. I got out the classifieds and spotted an ad for assemblers needed at a young company called Lexicon. Having built an Aries modular synthesizer from a kit, my soldering skills were good enough to impress them, and I got the job — and started the same week that the groundbreaking Lexicon PrimeTime digital delay and 224 digital reverb were released. I've been working in pro audio ever since.

Anyone who has played in more than a few bands knows about the “handwriting on the wall” feeling, whether it's sensing that you and your band are going in different directions or that a particular player is not going to work out.

Using another example from my life to demonstrate the “planned change” scenario, I have in the past couple of years been redirecting more of my musical energies from playing drums to playing vibes and electronic mallets. My reason for switching, which was based on a long-building frustration at the drummer's lot, came to a head in a conversation with an audience member at a gig. She revealed that, despite having watched my band for the whole set, she hadn't even realized that I was playing among them. The stage wasn't that crowded.

I was faced with the realization that, after playing drums for decades, the audience literally didn't even know I was there. Time for a change.

In the next band I joined, I played a synth with a MIDI mallet controller. Once that band broke up, I worked up a repertoire and started playing open houses on solo vibes and vocals, doing primarily folk music. That is something people are definitely not accustomed to seeing, and I no longer escape the audience's notice. Of course, this change is still in progress but something does seem to be happening.

Learning to anticipate change is a powerful asset, and learning to roll with the changes, whether expected or not, is even more powerful. Although it may sometimes be possible to fight a particular change, fighting the idea of change is more futile than fighting the coming of the tides.

You can't count on clearly seeing the shape of change; you can't even count on understanding it when it arrives or has passed. The Jefferson Airplane put it succinctly in the song “Crown of Creation”: “Life is change; how it differs from the rocks.”