I found this while going through old articles, etc. I wrote it to the CMC staff after making a difficult decision about a large amount of funding for the CMC. It's possibly interesting as a document justifying the chosen course, but it also articulates some of the driving motivation behind the culture we tried to establish at the Center. Were we successful? Probably not as much as we pretended, but it was certainly worth the attempt.

I blanked out most of the proper names used below and left out some of the nitty-gritty details because it was originally intended for a small group. I didn't think it appropriate to air too much of the laundry.

Hey gang --

I think I owe an explanation, or at least a description, of my
perspective regarding the CMC future.  XXX has rightly identified
some items we need to address (contact, communication, etc.) but
the perceived "crunchiness" of these issues isn't as acute as
you might imagine.

If I had to describe my 'mission in life' (beyond the obvious family
stuff), it would revolve around the notion of changing how people
situate themselves in society.  In particular I'd like to be rid of
our cultural concept of God-artist... too many proto-Wagners makes
for a really *bad* world, in my opinion.  Studying with Jim Randall
at Princeton, I saw that it was possible to find or coalesce a group
of individuals who can instantiate an alternative model of a working
artist-society.  So when we first started a computer-music group at
Columbia, we actively sought to promote this kind of sharing, supportive

By and large it worked, too.  But then real life intervened.  When
XXX left and we took total control of the EMC, things were
in pretty bad shape.  Our budget was ridiculous, and for the first
time people -- friends' -- *lives* depended on it.  XXX moved out to
NYC pretty much "on spec"; he didn't get paid for about 6 months (some
things never change at Columbia...).  XXX started working at the
CMC the following year, for about $XXX total yearly salary, and he was in
serious danger of being deported.  It's just wonderful to have grandiose
ideas about reshaping society and culture, but if people can't pay
the rent then it's all, well, academic.

Our first order of business was then to grow the CMC as quickly and
dramatically as we could.  And we did!  We were successful beyond our
imaginings.  We did so well that at some point I started imagining
"Vee could take over Zee Vorld".  The trajectory of Bigger/More$$$/Bigger/
More$$$ was set.  The initial charge to XXX, to make us BIGGER and
MORE FAMOUS came from that context.

It was also being driven by circumstances with the XXX Foundation
and the School of the Arts.  XXX had been hinting broadly about a
substantial sum of money for the CMC if we were able to show the
BIGGER-ness and MORE FAMOUS-ness with the XXX
Project.  SoA looked like it was to become the next "happenin'
thang" at Columbia, and if we could insinuate ourselves there with
BIG FAMOUS money, then we'd be just happy happy happy for the rest of
our lives.

You can see where this is leading, right?  It's the typical morality
tale of fame and fortune in our culture:  the quest for ultimate
success can wind up destroying the very thing you sought that led
to the success.  In the past few weeks, I was able to see the face
of the future of the CMC if we continued to pursue growth for its
own sake -- the promised XXX money had major strings attached
that would have demolished the creative and energizing environment
we have at the CMC, and the grass that looked mighty green over at
SoA is starting to appear a little brown at the roots.

Where does this leave us?  Financially, we're still in great shape
(like I said, we were successful beyond our imaginings).  At some
point in the indefinite future, we may not be.  BUT I'm willing to
gamble that the instincts that got us to this point -- promoting the
"CMC culture", continuing to do projects that interest us and
our students/researchers -- will lead to more opportunities in
the future.

More pragmatically, this means that we should no longer feel the
pressure to achieve great fame, etc. but should instead take a step
back and think about what we would really LIKE to do.  What an
amazing position to be in!  XXX, this is the short answer to
XXX -- I'm not sure we even need or want a major publicity effort
for any projects we dream up primarily to GET publicity... so any
subtle pressure she might feel to adopt the CMC as a client should
be completely taken off the table.  However, I still believe her
presence at the CMC is a good one for a host of different reasons,
and XXX said she is a talented and motivated creator -- the kind
of person we do want at the CMC.  I'll write to XXX and tell her
this along with the reasons I would like for her to stay engaged with
us.  If she feels she wants to keep it 'professional', there is a
mechanism (School of General Studies) that would allow her to pay
for a special-projects class and not feel she was taking advantage
of anyone at the CMC.

So let's put on our thinking caps and do some nifty stuff!  XXX
is correct, we need to have some regularly-scheduled meetings to
accomplish this.  My time constraints are a bit freer this spring,
so a bi-monthly monday meeting is probably a good idea (the CMC staff
meetings on wednesdays have been terrific for keeping things
together).  We have some minor staff bumps to face in the coming
months, but by and large we are in great shape.  I want to hold
a "CMC day" again shortly after the holidays, so we can hash out
some more firm plans at that point.

Finally, I think I should take a large amount of the blame for
some of the disorganizational angst you all feel.  Going after
our grants while simultaneously maintaining the free and open
culture of the CMC put me increasingly into untenable situations
(you guys have no idea...), and I really started to feel pretty
shitty about my own work.  Unfortunately, my response in situations
like this is to set myself up for failure, and several times recently
I was pretty close to a major meltdown.  Obviously I've been going
through some kind of crisis in the past year or so, and to be honest
it still continues.  Please don't let my periodic disengagements
from life affect your perception of how the CMC is "doing".  It's
"doing" great!

See you all tomorrow --