Today’s Special Guest: Commuting with Matt Schickele

David Johnston

Welcome to the second in a series of Today’s Special Guest blog posts by previous Con Edison Composers-in-Residence.  Today, we check back with Matt Schickele, a member of our inaugural class, Flushing Town Hall in 2009.

Matt Schickele


Like most modern artists I’m in a constant struggle for time. I need uninterrupted chunks of it. Time to work. Time enough to get lost, create, and find my way back again.

To juggle family, friends, money, and obligations and still have significant chunks of time is a skill. It is a skill that is essential–especially for artists in New York City. We live in a land of distraction, a full-volume land, a land of first-born-child-per-square-foot real estate, a land where everybody (even Laurie Anderson) is saying “look at me.”

And then there’s the interwebz. We… oh, uh… where was I?

At first the idea of an in-town residency seemed strange. I already live in Queens; why would I need a residency here? Besides, residencies are most valuable when they’re in Europe, or with a biggie-high-profile organization. Or in a beautiful forest where you share meals with other artists—preferably artists more famous than you, so later you can brag.

But maybe give it another thought. Perhaps an in-town residency has unexpected benefits. Perhaps you will sleep at home. Perhaps you’ll get up, slurp your coffee, then run for the bus. Maybe this little bus ride will allow you to organize your thoughts: where did my work stand yesterday when I came home? How should I expand on it today?

You arrive at the office, sit at your desk (piano), and work.

No radio. No fridge. No interwebz. No cats, or lovers, pawing you. You are still in the city, in your life, but you have been handed weeks and weeks of that most precious of resources, uninterrupted chunks of time.

You focus. There is nothing to do but make. And you will make make make until the day is over. Then get back on the bus and go home.

This was my biggest surprise when I did the residency: I loved being a commuter.

Since then I’ve been trying to re-create the feeling. Some mornings I walk around the block before starting work, just to feel like I’m “going to the office.” When I take breaks, I pretend I’m not home. And sometimes I catch myself staring out the window at the sidewalk, thinking, “can I build a little shed there? Would anyone notice? Would anyone care?”

I doubt I can convince the mayor to allow little composer-sheds to be built around the city. We’ll see. I’ll try. Maybe.

Whatever happens, I’ll always remember fondly the time I spent as a commuter.

Are you a composer? Want to commute? Sign up on our homepage for info on the upcoming Con Edison Musicians’ Residency.  In the meantime, you can listen to Matt’s work here and read his very cool blog here.


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