Trivial Pursuits


By Steve Oppenheimer

(January 2002)

When so many have recently been killed, maimed, widowed, orphaned, or impoverished, we would do well to reflect on what we do each day and consider its importance. Certainly we aren’t all cut out to be heroes, pulling survivors out of burning buildings, catching criminals, or defending the nation. But with that understood, it’s good to seek perspective, especially when we are warm and dry (though perhaps no longer feeling as safe as we once did) in our studios and offices.

Having given blood, donated money, participated in public discussions, or volunteered for a nonprofit cause (September 11-related or not), at the end of the day you still have to make a living. If you are fortunate enough to still be employed making widgets, hopefully somebody still needs those widgets. And you still have to eat, so widget making is vital from that viewpoint, even if it seems trivial in the scheme of things.

Fortunately, what we musicians and producers do is not quite as trivial as it might seem at first glance. While producing music certainly isn’t in the same league with fire fighting, it is good to realize that some of the firefighters probably look forward to listening to music when they finally return home or to base for much-needed rest and relaxation. Their families — and the families of those less fortunate — may turn to music for encouragement or consolation. Volunteer organizations often use music to help focus their message and inspire their supporters. Music helps us communicate in a powerful way at a time when people especially need to connect with each other. So although we musicians don’t work in a vital industry in the sense that, say, medical staff do, we may be contributing more than we imagine.

I thought about that many times while we were putting together this year’s Editors’ Choice Awards. On the face of it, coming to the office to edit a magazine seems less inspiring than helping those in need. But our readers rely on us to deliver specialized information and advice that helps them make the music of their dreams. Helping people make their dreams come true is a pretty fine way to spend one’s days, even in wartime; looked at that way, maybe creating this magazine is a valuable contribution after all. And if those musical dreams in turn help those who listen to the music, we’ve contributed in a small way.

So even while we contemplated the latest national disaster and struggled to regain our balance, we EM editors rededicated ourselves to the task at hand: making this a better magazine and making the tenth annual Editors’ Choice Awards the best yet. Once we got into it, we realized that some of these products were downright amazing and could help musicians create inspired music — a Very Good Thing, especially in these grim times. And that led us back to remembering that our job is really to support your musical efforts.

It is our sincere hope that this issue and every issue will turn you on to a product or technique or concept that helps you produce a better song, a song that will make a difference to someone who needs to hear it. It may be a small contribution to making this a better world, and it isn’t heroic, but it’s worthwhile nevertheless.