A Day of Public Humanizing: Dave Ruder

Editor’s Note: Hi, DayofPHers! (you don’t have to call yourselves that) Robyn, Inge, and I have been reaching out to friends, colleagues, idols, and other acquaintances in the wide world of public humanities to see if anyone wants to write guest posts about their days of public humanizing. If you’d like to tell us about your day (or blog about another topic related to our Day of Public Humanities!), please get in touch! You can email us (dayofPH[at]gmail) or contact us via Twitter (@DayofPH). And don’t forget to talk about your work with us on Tuesday, May 9th, 2017! 🙂

Thanks for writing this, Dave (and thanks to Robyn for asking Dave to write for us!).

I suppose first it’d be helpful to explain what I do. I am a musician and a composer and etc. I’m currently in three groups – Reps, thingNY, and Varispeed, and sometimes I do stuff under my own name. I run a label called Gold Bolus Recordings, which is releasing two new albums this month. I’m the Deputy Director of the Make Music Alliance, which coordinates 4,000+ free, outdoor concerts around North America and the UK every year on June 21st, which is not so far off. I’m also currently managing a project for Guerilla Science that involves finding artists to make new work for a device that takes sound input and turns it into flames.

I’ll work in the Make Music office 25-30 hours a week this month, and that will go up as June 21st approaches. I spend a lot of evenings rehearsing, writing, recording, doing press stuff for the label, and seeing performances. Similar to Robyn’s sentiment, expressed earlier on this blog, the line between doing something for fun and for work has long since blurred. Tonight, for instance, I’m going to see a show I would’ve gone to see anyway that’s part of friends’ residency at Union Pool here in Brooklyn. Now it’s got a “work” component to it because last week, the drummer didn’t have some files I needed of a recent recording session we did, so it was agreed I could just pick them up before the show tonight. So I’ll bring my laptop to a rock show (I always kvetch about bringing my laptop out of the apartment, I should probably just get a desktop), and frankly I’ll probably feel better about the show because it’ll have an “I got something done” feel to it. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll have time to work on editing the recordings.

scrap note

This morning, I wrote myself a note to remind the drummer to bring his hard drive. This is common – I have a lot of processing-the-day’s-needs thoughts in the shower at ~8:10am, usually about the label or about my own music. I’ll anticipate that I won’t be able to get to it for a number of hours, so the thought gets written down on a piece of torn scrap paper. There were two thoughts this morning. Very often these notes are left with a lot of cryptic code words, or lots of initials. It’s not that they contain any sensitive information, it’s just that information for your future self is more interesting when it requires reinterpretation. And there’s a non-zero amount of satisfaction in writing something down, knowing it’s going to leave your brain, and having 99% faith that it’s going to come back to you again.

Usually I’ll leave that on the computer keyboard and hope the cat doesn’t chew it to pieces. 80% of the time I’ll finish those tasks by the end of the day. The other 20% it’ll linger, and the note will accumulate other thoughts like groceries to buy, things to read, people to say hey to. These notes to self tend to sprawl a lot.

But most notes aren’t written down. Something not very secret about me is that I. Love. Motherfucking. Email. Best form of communication. It’s where the magic of coordinating and scheduling happens. I keep things clean – 1-3 unread emails at the end of the day, tops, usually 0. Sometimes there’s a note left there though, or something that needs a longer response, something I’m not ready to deal with. This is true for both work and personal (aka musician stuff) email. The record label email account has had 1 email unread for some months now, it’s investigating some press possibilities that I’m not stoked to investigate but probably should.

Until 2011, I used a wall calendar. 2011 was the year I began to have what you could call professional success as a performer (ie people actually paid me to do things I’d been doing for 8 or 9 years to that point). So Google Calendar became a necessity. Still is. I do an occasional Doodle. But beyond that, it’s all in my brain, and in my inbox. The wall calendar now is just for drawing on animals.

Calendar by Dave Ruder and L. Levy.

Calendar by Dave Ruder and L. Levy.

Can I just say that I really hate the Google Calendar invite? To me it’s like, yeah, I already added it on my calendar, I can take care of myself. I can understand a little bit when you’re in a different time zone and you want to make sure everyone’s on the same page as to what 11am means. But same time zone? Don’t send me an invite, it just doubles the block on the calendar. I am anal retentive about these things. This of course is a totally obnoxious opinion, however true it may be.

For my day job at the Make Music Alliance, I have a notebook that I sometimes use a lot, other times only a little. If I’ve got something to do, it’s got a circled star to the left of it, and when it’s done, that gets crossed out. Some days nothing gets added to the list in this fashion. I’m very much not a procrastinator, so if there’s a task at hand, I’d rather just tackle it straight away. More likely, I’m tackling five things at a time, without writing anything down or crossing anything off. Today, all the important stuff is done, there were just some tertiary tasks left by the time I left the office.

Dave's notebook

One thing I’ve thought about of late is the difference in idea retention I experience these days as a smart phone haver vs before 2010 when I had paper sometimes. I used to feel I was pretty good at holding onto ideas, particularly thoughts that function as artistic kernels, but I also very commonly felt the feeling of “I know I just had a good idea and I know it’s probably gone forever now”. Being able to a.) write a reminder to myself b.) being able to record a musical thought c.) being able to photo/video record something more visual makes the percentage of retention even higher. And that is a blessed thing. I think that’s a big help in managing going from one thing to the next to the next.

Dave and his cat


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