It seems today, in all of our evolution and self-improvement, that we're so enamored and opinionated about our things; our stuff, our possessions.

We don't own them as much as they own us, and our unquenchable consumerism seeks to continually obtain this, that, and the next thing, making sure always to stay on top of the latest thang-version. Heaven forbid we own or use anything that's now four or five years old, or even a year old. Or, ... shudder ... possibly 5 months old. Yuck! A new phone update, a new OS, a new software version, a newer laptop, a later car model, a newer whatcha-ma-dingy ... and we're up in arms. After all, the new thingy is sleeker, shinier, and ultimately the answer to our sad circumstance of now "suffering" without it. There, there. We wouldn't want anyone to think you're not cool, or something.

Perhaps even worse, though, is what comes with this mentality in the form of another obsession: not only being impressed with our choice of stuff but fixated on choices others might make about similar stuff. Particularly, monitoring if others are wise enough to make the same "informed", expert stuff-choices we make. After all, I do hold precise knowledge as to which thing-brand or thing-version is really best. My keenness to universally understand all facets of stuff uniquely qualifies me to conclude what everyone else ought to choose, or think. Likewise, I fully comprehend the complexity of all people; their nuances, and their needs. How could anyone possibly imagine otherwise when I'm undoubtedly right?

Next chance, check out the comments section at the end of any web column. You can sense the venom seething in almost immediately as you read the last paragraph and peek down at the first comment post. Like dry kindle, only a few posts afterward and the flame-war has ignited. In our age of tolerance, we cannot tolerate someone else's intolerance to our expansive awareness and sagacity - and that of course is just intolerant of them! The only rightful recourse is to taunt and insult the commenter and explicate the extent of their ignorance and folly for not understanding things as well as I do. After all, they're clearly oblivious, and I'm clearly right.

We need to get over ourselves, and our things.

If you think what you use works better, than you’re right.

News-flash to self: we're not all the same - and that's a good thing when it comes to stuff. Toyota or BMW? Android or iPhone? PC or Mac? Finale or Sibelius? The means or the end? Look, I don't care if you arrive in a Lexus or a Yugo as long as you get to the gig on time. As professionals, we have a reputation to maintain. The quality of our work must exemplify this through whichever means of our choosing. Those means are chosen for a variety of unique reasons, which are also as unique as each of us. So then, who governs and critiques those means, and what right do they have? In the end, the overriding expectation remains: just get the job done.

Before the industrial revolution, is it possible that farmers might have scoffed at each other's choice of oxen harness, or breed of mule? Maybe tradesmen contended over their anvil's brand-name and hurled ridicule at how others are using an outdated version. Still using a 19-year-old Smythe brand mallet? Well, you're obviously stupid. How about even earlier - "I can’t believe Michelangelo used Murgese instead of Sanfratellano horse-hair brushes to paint chapel ceilings. What an incompetent dolt."

Perhaps our modern entitlements and alleged "advancements" feed into this and carries with it an enhanced amount of unwarranted pride and insolence. What to make of that and what to do? Counter it with tolerance and political correctness? How's that working out? It would seem rather that a heavy dose of respect, love, and caring for others is missing and might be more effective, instead. How about my being more objective and focusing on the beauty and amazement of what's being produced and allowing that to speak volumes to me. But I'll let you vote as I descend from my pulpit. The point is, we can come to a place where we respect people for what they use, admire how they use it, and appreciate what they ultimately produce from it all - even if I don’t agree with their choice of means. And as for myself, I'd much rather be appreciated than tolerated.

Ok, let's get past social disparities and peace signs and talk turkey: can we allow the end to justify the means? I prefer using certain score editors, sequencers, and recording software. Others like utilizing a different set of tools. Professionally, is one arguably better than another? When the builders finish building the house does anyone ask which brand hammers were used? Or, were the circular saws 7.5" or 9" models and were they Ryobi's or Deltas? If part of the construction came out incorrect, you'll probably not find the contractor yelling at the screwdrivers and blaming the Skil saws. The tools didn't build the house, the builder did.

A simple rule might be: If you think what you use works better, than you're right.

That is, whatever tool, or thing, works for you is what's best - for you. You'll do a disservice to yourself if you let anyone tell you otherwise. I tell my students to use whichever score editor they like as long as they can produce work as the assignment calls for. And that includes handwriting it, old-school, if they wish. When I inspect and grade their work, I'm only concerned about the expected completeness and professionalism of what's produced. If something's not right, I'm not apt to point out any failure in what means they used, but rather what they themselves did, or didn't do. The burden remains on the composer, not the tool.

Over the years I've regretfully had little spats over such things, only to look back and realize how silly and petty it all is. Are other people allowed to use products and tools that I don't particularly favor? Perhaps my car brand, cell phone, and operating system might not suit everyone else, too? Yes? I most certainly think so. On some projects, your collaborators only work in Finale, and you in Sibelius and people can start pointing fingers. I'm frankly tired of it and strive to be a part of the solution rather than the problem. There's ways to make it work just fine and everybody can go on using what they prefer. Kumbaya everyone, let's just get the job done and focus on the results.

The burden is not what we’re using but how we’re using it, and if the job is getting done right.

You know - the end-result; the part that actually matters.

I'll close by turning the coin over: in some cases, might there be an actual "right" or "wrong" tool for a job? This is a topic for another post, but I'd have to say that this possibility can exist and you may find yourself needing to be flexible. That would be a professional attitude to take. Depending on the project, you might be better off starting in Pro Tools, for instance, rather than Logic because the crew you're working with simply doesn't use Logic. Maybe your tool preference is missing a feature that would better suit the project parameters. That doesn't mean your choice couldn't be made to work but maybe in such a case, it's not worth going there. Just as with your choice of tools, only you can answer this. Artists and creative types can be a pig-headed, ego-driven bunch. Starting an empty argument about how my choice of kit is superior and everyone else needs to realize how enlightened I am is simply lacking focus on achieving the end result, and instead dwelling on the means. Sadly, this happens so often it warrants a commentary.

Fair to say, the tools we choose should serve our needs and their intended purpose, with no mandate to cater to someone else's expectation. The burden is not what we're using but how we're using it, and if the job is getting done right. We're free to individually decide which kit-is-fit for professional results, and just get the job done.

Now, get over it and get back to work.

Marc J Stasio is an east-coast based composer/arranger, pianist, educator, and author who actively lives out his calling producing scores for hire, serving as jazz faculty, and performing abroad for over 35 years. His work is heard on recordings by today's top artists in jazz and contemporary music. As professor of jazz studies, he specializes in teaching composition and arranging based on “the Hidden Score,” with a blog and upcoming publications under that title. Marc holds a Masters degree in Jazz Studies and is currently pursuing his Doctorate. Find his website at http://marcstasio.com.
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