A 'real world' look at the facets of identity

* Investigating pseudonyms, personas and roles at a music festival

I just got back from a 7-day music festival - an excellent opportunity to further investigate pseudonyms, personas and roles. It was, by far, the most entertaining vacation I've taken in many years but it was also very enlightening as a "real world" look at these facets of identity.

For background click here, which will give you an idea of what I experienced. But, at the risk of sounding superior, you really had to be there! First, a note on roles.

Catherine Russell is a fantastic singer. She performed with the Holmes Brothers and was perfectly cast as a Gospel Blues singer (“Amazing Grace”; “Rock of Ages”). But she also jumped on stage with an all-star slack guitar group (led by Bob Margolin with Donald Kinsey, Larry McCray & Luther Johnson) to do a real Mississippi road house version of “Wang Dang Doodle” – and it was easy to believe that this was a low-down temptress. Two very different roles that Ms. Russell filled.

The audience perfectly illustrated the use of personas. These were 2,000 or so accountants, librarians, teachers, lawyers, dentists, psychologists (and at least one tech writer!) who – for this week – became cool daddies and hootchie mamas, carrying on in ways that (I hope) their families, employers and clients don’t find out about! They could carry it off because, except for those who came on as a group (2 – 4 couples traveling together) no one on the ship knew anything about them except for the persona they projected. And once the ship docked, they could go back to their “normal” lives while waiting to break out once again next year.

And what about pseudonyms? George Frayne donated some of his paintings to the art auction (to support The Blues Foundation), and he does sign his name to them. But when he got on stage to lecture about the beginnings of boogie-woogie music (fully illustrated with his own piano playing) he wasn’t introduced as George Frayne, but as Commander Cody (he of the “Lost Planet Airmen”) because that’s the name he uses as a musician. There’s no attempt to hide the “sameness” of the two, but Frayne believes that his art should be judged on its own merits without necessarily being grabbed up by fans of the late 60’s cult classic “Hot Rod Lincoln.” Great use of a pseudonym!

There’s still time to sign up for next year’s cruise – and tell them you heard it from me. If enough of us go we can hold an identity management seminar and you can write it off as an “educational” experience!

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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