Ask Ty...October 21

It must be Tuesday, Middlespacers, because I'm answering your questions

: Ty,
I am going to tell you what is missing in your life and your art (and I mean every letter that I write): Ralph.

You have admirers, patrons, co-conspirators, fellow creators, mopes. Your Lilys, your Christines and Cass's, your Nuttycombes, your Ben Tolmans, your Big Dave Waves, and your Rich Walklings. But you don't have a Ralph.

I think you need one. And not necessarily the same one you used to have. Your craft is a rare one and it may not be obvious who to turn to.

So, what are you going to do?

- Rickey Powell

Ty: Good question and an even better observation, Rickey. It is true Ralph was hugely influential in my life. He went from being a mythical hero to teacher to mentor to statesman. I suppose he never knew how he impacted what I do, but there's always been that WWRD in the back of my mind when I execute.

I remember distinctly sitting in his house in San Francisco and reading percussion music with him. There was this one phrase where a high pitched instrument would play eight notes. Simultaneously a lower pitched instrument would play triplets. Well, Music School rule number one is basically don't run your triplets with your eight notes. I pointed this out to Ralph. I was all, "Why would you do this?" His answer was, "Why would you not do this!" And he laughed that laugh where you realize that he knows exactly what he's talking about and you just got schooled in a manner so profound that you realize how profound it is--right then. Right there.

I only studied with him for two years. That was plenty. He was the first person who I believed was genius. He was also the first person to tell me that I was genius. And it wasn't one of those throw-away "you're a genius" "no, you're a genius" things. It was different. He sat me down, faded the music a little bit, looked me in the eye and said, "Listen. You got something going on. You're a genius and you may never know that. But remember that ideas exist for the executing."

And now don't get all, "Homey thinks he's all that now. A genius? Please." No. I don't know my multiplication tables and can't spell worth a shit. Senator, I'm no genius. I just have nagging ideas that need executing all the time. I think what Ralph was telling me was that it was OK for one to do one's thing; so fly your freak flag high and let your pigeons loose.

My relationship with Ralph has always been of interest to me. I'm, in part, one of his Frankenstein's monsters. He told me at 20 that I possessed something. That's great but I probably couldn't handle that particular knowledge at that particular age. I always had a thing that I worked, but that was about it. But when someone who knows something breaks some heavy news your direction, sometimes you duck. But...he unlocked that gate. But even though the metaphoric gate has been unlocked for over half of my life, I still prefer hopping the metaphoric fence.

Ralph and I grew apart (which is normal) but I always try to let him know I care and appreciate everything.

So what am I going to do, Rickey? Dunno. But your email is one of those moments where you realize that someone who knows exactly what he's talking about (you) just schooled you (me) in a manner so profound that you realize how profound it is--right then. Right there.

Until I find my Ralph I'll try to rise to the level of the Onstads and the Blogniggers. Good, smart, creative people there. And I have you. Thanks.

Just a guess,



Ask Ty... Archive: [clicky]