“Calculated Discomfort” has both positive and challenging connotations.
On one hand, it’s the idea that stepping just beyond your comfort zone to experience things that help you question your assumptions without violating your way of existence is an essential part of personal growth (and can become enjoyable once you do it enough).
On the other hand, it encapsulates this idea that some people constantly have to balance the fact that their presence creates social discomfort with their desire to have a good time.
I’ve come to accept that 90% of people haven’t interacted with a blind person before, so anytime I go to a public or social space I have to be ready for people to panic or be nervous to some degree. Like working out, you get better at it, but it’s never pain free.
Last November I invited 15 of my closest friends and collaborators from jazz projects, classical music, and metal bands to join me for a largely improvised recording session. I came armed with a few compositions and sketches, but the main goal of the session was to see what a group of great listeners, out of their comfort zones, could create on the fly with some gentle direction.
We recorded more than six hours of glorious sound over the course of two days, and we did it almost exclusively the old school way: all in the same room without do-overs.
I spent time with all that sound and have paired it down to a 45 minute musical journey.
released August 17, 2018
Track 1: Tommy Carroll (drums); Karl Maher (guitar); Craig Davis Pinson (guitar); Wilson Tanner Smith (cello); Neil Carson (saxophone); Matt Riggen (trumpet); Evan Salvacion Levine (bass)
Track 2: Tommy Carroll (drums); Karl Maher (guitar); Craig Davis Pinson (guitar); Neil Carson (saxophone); Matt Riggen (trumpet); Evan Salvacion Levine (bass)
Track 3: Tommy Carroll (drums); Karl Maher (guitar); Craig Davis Pinson (guitar); Matt Riggen (percussion); Brock Stuessi (upright bass); Luc Parcell (electric bass); Daniel Van Duerm (synthesizer)
Track 4: Tommy Carroll (drums); Karl Mhaer (guitar); Julius Tucker (rhodes); Alex Warshawsky (bass); Neil Carson (saxophone)
Track 5 : Tommy Carroll (drums); Matt Riggen (trumpet); Joey Rosin (saxophone); Brock Stuessi (percussion and bass); Wilson Tanner Smith (cello); Evan Salvacion Levine (bass); Emily Beisel (bass clarinet); Karl Maher (guitar); Craig Davis Pinson (guitar)
Track 6: Caroline Hildebrandt (spoken word); Tommy Carroll (drums and lyrics); Ben Zucker (xylosynth and vibraphone); Brock Stuessi (bass); Matt Riggen (trumpet and trombone); Karl Maher (guitar)
Recorded by Leo Galbraith-Paul at Northwestern University
Track 4 recorded by Joe Hampton at Electrical Audio
Mixed by Karl Maher
Mastered by Scott Steinman at Studiomedia Recording
Album art by Tracy Conoboy
At his keyboard in a slightly descript complex at the center of somewhere that strives to be everywhere, a man misses the days when people could think for themselves.
As dust collects on the seldom used appliances of his vacant home, the man watches his screen scroll by in dismay.
Endless ‘PC’ callouts and a handful of bigoted outbursts mix into a noxious cocktail that forces the man to sigh, expelling all the air from his slightly below-capacity lungs.
It’s a valiant attempt to cleanse his soul of this ideological strife.
Mind clear of the dizzying effect of comment wars, the man locates the root of the problem – something only he can see.
Unlike him, the social justice warriors and neo Nazis, in a never-ending fit of tribal chest beating and emotion-soaked fervor, have both lost sight of it…
Good, balanced rationality.
That sweetest of neural nectars.
Brewed with an equal dose of both sides, and fermented with the essence of individualism.
If only these self-proclaimed radicals could sit at a table with their brash alt-right comrades and sip the justly-intoned juice of measured analysis, maybe this dogmatic delusion could come to an end.
Just imagine the minds of both tribes being relinquished into a world of free thought – and high GDP.
How gloriously productive it would be.
There is work to be done though.
The man knows the right wing is wrong.
Free speech is infinitely free until it advocates bodily harm – he is confident in this…
He is not confident that the tribe on his left offers an alternative.
They too are guilty of silencing voices, no matter how dangerous those voices may be.
Of course! He really – truly – wants everyone to have an equal shot at life.
But he cannot accommodate these criticisms of his country.
Sure, the bad politicians have shoved the state down a waterslide to hell.
But it doesn’t warrant these childish rebukes of a perfectly fixable Democracy.
Don’t they see how good we have it here?
The tribe to the man’s left sees how good he has it here.
He has it pretty good.
Definitely not great, but absolutely pretty good.
He’s making good money, but he has medical bills to pay.
He owns a condo, but is divorced.
He’s not at the top of his field, but he can generally act how he pleases.
The tribe wonders why the man believes its members don’t think for themselves.
He’s been invited to open mic Wednesdays, the Thursday night expo for local businesses, the Sunday community roundtable, and even an underground DIY concert.
He never showed, but there’s still a chance.
One of the tribe’s members tried talking to the man at a conference once, but They were dismissed for being too emotional.
Emotions bring people together in the tribe, but they go against the man’s firm values of rationality and individualism.
Another of the tribe’s members cleaned the man’s home last week.
They wonder how someone could have so little food in the fridge and so many dirty tissues in the trash can.
It must have something to do with individualism.
Gender roles are flexible in the tribe.
Female-identifying members don’t have to file for divorce to try their hand at a new career, even if they won’t be the world’s best in the new calling.
The members might be in close agreement about many things, but they look, talk, and act different from one another.
Hard work often prohibits some of the members from keeping up with news of the elected.
Sometimes, members who have more time to be in-the-know circulate calls to action.
Wanting to support their tribal kin, the busier members do echo these calls.
It’s maybe a little too convenient, but the refinement and communal debates will take place in safer spaces – like the roundtable the man didn’t attend.
Thanks to virality, the tribe will be the talk of the country for at least a day, though change tends to move slower than the call for it.
The man, in his quiet home, will feel inconvenienced by the noise.
He will bemoan identity politics and how it distracts from the ‘real’ matters at hand.
The tribe won’t deny that the matters he sees are important to him because the law only bends backwards for the man.
And thus the man will be able to continue his rugged life of thoughtful individualism.
At least the members of the tribe won’t be lonely.