To Begin and to Begin Again

To Begin and to Begin Again

In the late summer of 1992 I started dating someone I had known from summer camp for years and she happened to be in a band with three of her friends. Her interest in and knowledge of music inspired me for the first time to pick up a guitar with any seriousness. Shortly after this while visiting a friend of mine I tried playing bass and his comment spoke volumes to me, “If that’s the first time you’re playing bass, you should play bass.” I took that to heart and asked for a bass guitar that Christmas. Thankfully due to the generous nature of my grandfather, Pop Pop, as we lovingly called him, I was able to build an instrument collection pretty quickly in the next few years.

By the end of high school I had a full drum set, bass guitar, electric guitar, 4-track recorder, cheap microphone, access to my stepmother’s acoustic guitar and a not quite tuned baby grand piano that had managed to make the move with us from Maryland to Pittsburgh, PA. These were the foundations of my musical awakening. Up until this point, I had been a pretty serious visual artist having studied in extracurricular classes and programs since the age of 6. Apparently, my parents asked me when I was 5 if piano lessons were of any interest and I said no. I don’t recall the conversation, and can only suppose I wasn’t yet ready for the wondrous world of music.

At the time, my musical influences were already widespread including such composers and artists as Igor Stravinksy, Frédéric Chopin, Claude Debussy, Miles Davis, My Bloody Valentine, Pavement, The Swirlies, Led Zeppelin, Phish, Dinosaur Jr, The Verve, Slowdive, Don Caballero, Sebadoh, Sonic Youth, U2, Simon & Garfunkel, and far more than I can name here. Any musical thought was up for grabs – I tried out anything and everything as it all seemed permissible. Including all the bands that I played in, I likely have 40-50 tapes worth of 4-track and live material recorded between the years of 1992 – 2000 and 98% of which has yet to be digitized.

I recall how willingly I approached music back then. I didn’t know there were wrong ways to do it – basically hit the record button, grab the closest object, conventional music instrument or not, and make some sounds. Often enough, it was only after laying down all the tracks did I realize what had been made and sometimes still didn’t really understand what just happened. And that seemed to be the point. Get lost to how it feels when making it, don’t look back, and start the next one. This was my key to being prolific.

Flash forward. Something of this nature has been rapidly taking hold of me again and all I wish to do these days is get lost in the music making, not look back, and quickly get to the next piece. There will never be a moment where all the music has been created – one of the most beautiful characteristics of music for which I will always be grateful. It is what guides me, and allows me patience, virtue, openness and respect toward nearly all discussions, people, cultures, and beyond. Trusting in the steadfast effort of this labor of love, I wish for the music that comes through me to find its way to all those open to it and that it allows a form of grace or ease or transformation however light or deep. This is my greatest wish. Anytime you wish, my music is here for all of you. Thank you for reading and listening.

The featured picture is likely from late 1994 or early 1995 when rehearsing with my band at the time. GSC (Good Shepherd Chapel). And that’s Damien sitting in on drums, typically he was belting it out as our lead singer.

Three classics from my senior year of high school circa 1993-94.

CC BY-SA 4.0 To Begin and to Begin Again by Caleb W. Cliff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.