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Defining Moments

by Baker Lee • in
  • FOH at Large
  • July 2018
• Created: July 17, 2018

Many years ago, when I was on the road, playing guitar in a cover band, I had an epiphany. After one of the many nights playing for party hounds and disco dancers, I woke up in my hotel room and viewed my guitar and half-packed luggage and realized what I had become. I didn’t view what I had become as a bad thing, but after living the life for a few years, I suddenly realized where that path was leading me, and I decided to step off. I quit the band and decided to move back to New York City to ply my trade as a guitarist/songwriter. It was one of the many defining moments that would guide me on my way to discover even more defining moments that would shape my life and lead me to be what I have become now.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a defining moment as: “The time that shows very clearly what something is really about.” The definition given by the online dictionary is: An event that typifies or determines all subsequent related occurrences.”

Not every realization leads to change, but it does lead to a crossroad where choices are required. The defining moment is when action is taken in regard to the choice that is made. Our defining moments lead us to new vistas and interactions that otherwise may not have existed if we had chosen differently. A fatalist might state that our choices are inevitable, and that they are predetermined to get one to exactly where one is at the moment. This type of thinking can often lead to inaction on a participant’s behalf, since they feel that their choices don’t really matter in determining the final outcome of any given circumstance. Therefore, they are not actively partaking in their defining moments, thereby only viewing those moments as something that happened to them and changed their lives. The irony of this type of thinking is that one is actually making a choice by not choosing one of the options afforded to them and, as a result, it keeps them on the same path they are on — albeit as a passive watcher rather than an active participant. Unfortunately, choosing not to make a choice doesn’t release one from any consequences should the path they’re on take a wrong turn.

‡‡         To Choose, or Not to Choose?

That is the question. The thought instilled in me from a very young age is that retreating to the mountaintop to meditate had to be balanced by the descent from the summit to actively participate in the world. Only through an active involvement in the world around us can any relevant changes be made and defining moments actualized. Active involvement does not have to take place on the world stage and can be as simple as choosing the type of reverb to use on a vocal or how much compression is needed for a certain channel. Whether or not these preferences lead to a defining moment is dependent upon how one’s moments are defined, but if a defining moment is revelatory and “An event that typifies or determines all subsequent related occurrences,” then a choice of reverb could very well lead to a defining moment in the way one understands the use of effects.

Defining moments are a dime a dozen and are available to everyone at anytime and not just allocated to one per customer. Of course, we all remember the big events in our lives because they are usually the ones that we have characterized as defining moments, but often it’s the little realizations that can impact us the most and change the world around us. Years ago, when I was getting ready to walk out the door to start another tour, my daughter — who was then one year old — blocked the door with her toys and said to me “Daddy don’t go!” I did go, but it was pretty much the last of my touring days, and I consider my daughter’s action to be the defining moment in my decision to find another way of contributing to the world of music and audio. It was a choice I had to make. I easily could have defined that moment in a different way, as I really enjoy touring the world and mixing concerts, but then I would have defined a different life.

Accidents and catastrophes are certainly defining moments in anyone’s life, but again, the individual definition of the moment is in the reaction to the event. The news is — and always has been — full of defining moments in people’s lives. It’s always nice to see an uplifting moment such as an immigrant in France scaling a four-story building to save a child and then being rewarded with citizenship for his deed. A knee-jerk reaction-defining moment indeed, one that plays out better than other knee-jerk defining moments, such as Roseanne Barr’s ugly tweet or Samantha Bee’s vulgarity.

There is certainly a plethora of shameful defining moments — from Hollywood to Washington — with many defining moments arising from the ashes of great careers. It is difficult to fathom the inhumanity of separating children from their parents — especially in a foreign country, as it can only be a horror of a defining moment for all involved. With great sadness and curiosity we read and hear about Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, and I wonder how their last defining moments will also be defining moments for their survivors. Thankfully, my defining moments seem to pale in light of all this worldly suffering.

‡‡         Moments Shared By Many of Us

For me, seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show was a defining moment — as it was for just about everybody else at the time. Having the opportunity to play music in front of thousands of people was a defining moment for me, as was mixing my first 5,000-seat concert. Getting married and having kids were also great defining moments in my life, but again, there is nothing unique about these experiences other than my personal reactions. We live in an interesting world, one in which it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep a secret, even though in many cases we willingly share our secrets and innermost thoughts with strangers and so-called friends. It’s a world in which we are under a constant spotlight; the unwitting celebrities of social media and hidden cameras, a world where even the smallest action might be brought to light and become a defining moment for not only the person defining the moment, but for all the world as well. As our personal defining moments are often being played out for multiple prying eyes to view, it might be a prudent option for us to take a proactive stance and define the moments rather than have the moments define us.


Illustration by Andy Au

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